Helicopter company not releasing info about malfunctions
Aeromed had mechanical problems again during critical call
LEE COUNTY – Tonight we're learning more about problems surrounding Lee County's new medical helicopter service. Last night we told you how the victim of a car crash had to be transported by ambulance because the helicopter - once again - had mechanical problems. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason continues our coverage and is working to get you answers.
We all know Lee County's Medstar program had its share of problems, that's why it was shut down. But now a private company has taken over and it seems they don't want the public to know about their problems.
"Dan" at Aeromed made it clear today...they don't want to speak with us.
Dan: “I can't go on record for anything, so.”
Mike Mason: "Okay."
Florida's Sunshine Law requires public agencies to provide information, whether it's good or bad.
For example: when the Medstar scandal unfolded, we received documents showing how Medstar billed patients illegally and the program did not meet federal requirements. But Aeromed is a private company and they may choose to keep their problems private as well.
Arnold MacAllister: "I don't think you're going to get any information that's useful out of the county unless you dig for it."
Arnold MacAllister was Medstar's pilot. EMS workers told him about an incident last Saturday involving a car crash on Burnt Store and Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. He says when Aeromed arrived on scene there was a major malfunction.
Arnold MacAllister: "When the crew landed there when they got out the door, the sliding door came off the tracks."
Aeromed has had similar problems in the past. Mechanical failures grounded the chopper during a critical car crash in Estero last September. We asked the interim county manager for info regarding this latest incident but she said we'd have to contact Aeromed to address those questions. So we went to Aeromed's office...but they didn't have much to say.
Mike Mason: "Why didn't someone call me back? You said in a matter of moments somebody would call me back."
We did manage to get an incident report and one of the 9-1-1 calls from the county.
911 Operator: "Tell her to be still and wait for help to arrive."
Caller: "She's being as still as can be and people are holding her hand."
Reports show last weekend's crash involved a vehicle and a pedestrian.
911 Caller: "The daughter was letting her mother out of the car and she didn't get out fast enough."
Aeromed was requested at 1:38pm but at 2:06pm Aeromed had to cancel due to mechanical problems. So for 28 long minutes crews were counting on Aeromed to transport the victim....but they had to resort to an ambulance instead.
We wanted to know why this happened and what is being done to fix it but at this point... Aeromed is keeping tight-lipped.
Mike Mason: "Who can I get information from? That's what I need to know."
Dan: "I contacted someone to have them contact you back so..."
Dan at Aeromed told us someone would be calling us to discuss the problems but so far we haven't heard anything. When we do we'll let you know.