St. Mary's Care Flight Grounded

One of two LifeStar helicopters preparing to land near a late evening car accident on June 15th, 2008 in Sevier County.
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When St. Mary's Care Flight makes a landing, it's usually to help someone in an emergency situation. But last night it had to make a precautionary landing at Fruita Monument High School, because it found itself in its own predicament.

Sunday night, instruments inside the chopper indicated a drop in pressure, which is why pilots made that landing. While the aircraft is inspected and repaired, rescue officials warn residents to be more cautious in remote areas.

"It's an access to us and it's really for the patient as much as anything," said Mike Page, spokesman for Grand Junction Fire and Rescue.

Grand Junction Fire and Rescue says St. Mary's Care Flight can play a critical role in helping to save the lives of many each year.

"If they're available, they can save a great deal of time from the scene to the hospital," said Page.

But after falling victim to mechanical problems, Care Flight won't be taking to the skies Monday. A spokesperson for St. Mary's Hospital told 11 News over the phone the chopper is undergoing a complete mechanical inspection to make sure it's safe to fly.

While officials say it's unfortunate they won't have Care Flight's services, they add that rescue crews have systems in place so they never have to rely on the chopper to begin with.

"For them, it's the same scenarios," said Page. "They're still prepared to do ground support."

St. Mary's says it will use a fixed wing aircraft as a backup while the chopper is repaired. Officials say it won't be used for wilderness calls or landing on highways.

"Planes can't land in the places that helicopters can," said Page. "So it does impact us to a certain degree."

That's why rescue officials are asking people in harder to reach places to exercise extreme caution.

"When you're in an area that's remote, you're taking the risk of not having access," said Page.

St. Mary's says inspections and repairs to Care Flight should be completed by Tuesday and then it can return to its normal service.

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