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Emergency Medical Service helicopter crashes – no survivors

INEMHelicopterThe INEM has confirmed that four people died in a helicopter crash in the Serra de Santa Justa near Porto.

“The National Medical Emergency Institute (INEM) announces that the emergency medical helicopter that has been missing was located at about 01:30 am, The aircraft in question was located in the Pias mountain range, in the municipality of Valongo. There are four confirmed dead,” reads the INEM statement released shortly after 02:00 on Sunday morning.

The helicopter, traveling between Porto and Macedo de Cavaleiros in Bragança, had been missing since 18:30 on Saturday evening and crashed into forest after hitting a radio mast in conditions of fog and driving rain.

“It will be up to the competent authorities to carry out an investigation to ascertain in detail the causes of the accident, the circumstances of which are not yet known,” reads the same note.

On board the helicopter were two pilots, a doctor and a nurse. A search operation on Saturday night involved 203 people supported by 35 vehicles.

The wreckage was found about 700 metres south of the chapel of Santa Justa, in the parish of Valongo,” said the district commander of the regional Civil Protection Authority, Carlos Rodrigues Alves.

The last record of the aircraft was at 18.30 on Saturday but it was reported as missing only at 20:15, raising questions about the emergency response system and time delay in mounting the search and rescue operation.

The INEM statement continued, “The occurrence of a situation such as this – taking place in the exercise of the daily mission of the Institute’s teams as they seek to save lives – is a matter of deep sadness and sorrow. It is of course a particularly difficult and extremely painful time for the Institution and their professionals, thank you right away for the hundreds of messages of solidarity received.”

The Agusta A109S helicopter, operated by Babcock, was returning to its base in Macedo de Cavaleiros on Saturday afternoon after a medical emergency mission to transport a seriously ill patient to the Hospital de Santo António, in Porto. It was not equipped with a flight data recorder, this complicating the investigators’ task.

The INEM medical emergency helicopter service was created in 1997 and has carried out around 16,370 urgent patient transports, without any serious incidents.