By Jon Hilkevitch
6:57 PM EST, December 12, 2012
The wreckage from the fatal crash this week of an emergency medical helicopter south of Rockford is being transported to Kansas for examination, and additional witnesses to the accident will be interviewed, the chief investigator said Wednesday.
The veteran chopper pilot and the two nurses on board were killed Monday night when the helicopter went down near Compton, Ill., which is between the flight’s original intended destination, Mendota Community Hospital in Mendota, and its point of departure at Rockford Memorial Hospital.
The crew was en route to Mendota to pick up a patient when the pilot, Andy Olesen, 65, radioed that he encountered bad weather, requiring him to turn back to Rockford. It was the only communication Olesen’s dispatcher received from the doomed aircraft, officials said.
Investigators will scrutinize weather conditions at the time of the accident, which included light snow and sleet, Olesen’s flight history and medical records, the dispatch communications, radar data, maintenance of the helicopter, and other factors, said Arnold Scott, the chief accident investigator assigned to the case by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Scott said he documented the crash site and examined the wreckage of the helicopter, which nose-dived into the ground, according to witnesses. Scott said he plans to speak with additional witnesses as well.
The investigation will verify the purpose of the attempted flight and create a chronology of events, Scott said.
The aircraft’s wreckage is being trucked to a facility in Kansas, where tests and a further forensic examination will be completed, he said.
The two nurses who died in the accident were identified as Karen Hollis, 48, and Jim Dillow, 40. Both were veteran flight nurses.