Front page news in St. Augustine:
MIAMI (AP) — Financial pressures likely contributed to a helicopter pilot’s decision to continue flying through deteriorating weather before crashing in north Florida, killing a Mayo Clinic heart surgeon and technician on their way to retrieve a heart for transplant in 2011, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Neither the Bell 206 helicopter nor pilot E. Hoke Smith of SK Logistics in St. Augustine were experiencing any problems before the crash early in the morning on Dec. 26, 2011, according to the NTSB probable cause report, published late Monday.
But the helicopter was not certified to handle the sporadically misty and overcast conditions between the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
The board found that Smith’s decision to continue flying in the poor conditions resulted in the crash in a remote, wooded area in Clay County, killing all three men on board.
Smith did not make any backup plans for the organ transport. Other SK Logistic pilots told investigators that they would have made the same flight but would have arranged for ground transportation or a flight by a fixed-wing aircraft if they could not complete the mission as scheduled, according to the report.
“Contributing to the pilot’s improper decision was his self-induced pressure to complete the trip,” according to the report. … READ MORE.