Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bell 407, SkyLife, N408FC: Fatal accident occurred December 10, 2015 in McFarland, Kern County, California

Family of Fresno paramedic killed in December helicopter crash files lawsuit

Paramedic Kyle Juarez 

The family of a Fresno paramedic who was killed in the Skylife air ambulance helicopter crash in Kern County has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Rogers Helicopters, claiming it was negligent in the maintenance and operation of the Bell 407 rotorcraft that crashed in a field nine miles east of McFarland last month.

The lawsuit was filed in Fresno County Superior Court this month because Rogers Helicopters is based in Fresno. The suit seeks money to pay for funeral and medical bills and unspecified damages for the wife and children of Kyle Juarez, 37, a flight and ground paramedic and nine-year veteran of American Ambulance who spent the last three years on the Skylife team.

Also killed in the Dec. 10 crash was pilot Thomas Hampl, 49, of Bend, Ore. and an employee of Rogers Helicopters; critical care nurse Marco Lopez, 42, of Hanford, a three-year SkyLife veteran; and the patient, Kathryn Ann Brown, 40, of Springville, who was employed as a substitute school teacher.

The cause of the crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Rogers Helicopter said Friday it would have no comment.

Authorities have said that the helicopter crew responded to Porterville to pick up Brown from Sierra View Medical Center for transport to San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield. At 6:52 p.m., the crew notified flight dispatch that the air ambulance was leaving Porterville.

About 7:05 p.m., dispatch tried to raise the helicopter for a routine check-in, but got no response. After checking with airport towers in Fresno and Bakersfield, the dispatch center notified Kern County authorities that the aircraft was missing and provided its last GPS reading east of McFarland.

A Kern County sheriff’s helicopter reported about 8:35 p.m. that it had found a debris field. Kern County deputies and fire crews, slowed by fog and darkness, reached the scene about 10 p.m. and confirmed that the patient and the crew of three had died.

Original article can be found here:

American Airborne EMS and Rogers Helicopters Inc:

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA037
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Thursday, December 10, 2015 in McFarland, CA
Aircraft: BELL 407, registration: N408FC
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 10, 2015, about 1908 Pacific standard time, a Bell 407, N408FC, was destroyed when it impacted terrain during cruise flight near McFarland, California. The helicopter was registered to American Airborne EMS, Fresno, California, and operated by Rogers Helicopters, DBA SkyLife, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. The Air Medical Flight call sign was SkyLife 4. The commercial pilot, flight paramedic, flight nurse, and patient sustained fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan was filed for the flight. The cross-country flight originated from the Porterville Municipal Airport, Porterville, California, at 1851 with an intended destination of the San Joaquin Memorial Hospital, Bakersfield, California.

Information provided by the operator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and local law enforcement revealed that the helicopter was initially dispatched from Visalia, California, to Porterville to facilitate transfer of a patient to a hospital in Bakersfield. At 1918, a dispatcher radioed the pilot to confirm their status; there was no response. The dispatcher inquired with the destination hospital, and personnel at Bakersfield Meadows Airport and verified the flight had not reached the intended destination. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement personnel began a search near the last known location of SkyLife 4. The FAA subsequently issued an Alert Notification (ALNOT) at 2034. The wreckage was later located by local law enforcement air units at 2054.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the helicopter impacted open hilly terrain about 9 miles east of McFarland. All major structural components of the helicopter were located within the wreckage debris path, that was about 465 feet in length, and oriented on a heading of about 037 degrees magnetic. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fresno FSDO-17

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Thomas and Sheli Hampl and their two sons, Kiliam and Liam

Kathryn Ann Brown of Springville, California

Pilot Thomas Hampl, 49 and flight nurse Marco Lopez, 42

Joshua Cawthra, Senior Aviation Accident Investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, addresses the media regarding the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of four people. The crash site was located east of Highway 65 and northwest of Sherwood Avenue.

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