NTSB finds texting led to fatal crash of helicopter

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2015 11:39 p.m. MDT

The pilot of a medical helicopter that crashed in Missouri in 2011 had been texting, and that was a contributing factor to the disaster that killed four people, federal investigators said.

The case is the first fatal commercial aircraft accident involving texting. But the texts, some from the pilot to a female friend, were just one problem.

The five-member National Transportation Safety Board unanimously agreed on Tuesday that the crash was caused by a tired pilot who skipped preflight safety checks that would have revealed the helicopter was low on fuel. After discovering the fuel problem, the pilot decided to continue on the last leg of the flight anyway, even though the correct procedure would have been to abort the flight and wait for fuel to be sent, investigators said.

"The nation's helicopter emergency medical services perform important work transporting hundreds of patients and organs every day. We all share the same goal: to ensure that lives are saved-not lost-in these vital lifesaving operations," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said.

"But, this investigation highlighted what is a growing concern across transportation-distraction and the myth of multitasking. When you are operating heavy machinery, whether it's a personal vehicle or an EMS helicopter, you need to be focused on the task at hand: transportation, safe transportation," she warned.

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