A medical helicopter, transporting a patient during a 10-minute flight, crashed amid dense fog in central California, killing all four people on board Thursday night.
The SkyLife air ambulance, which was carrying the patient from Porterville Municipal Airport to the San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield, was reported missing Thursday evening.
Local authorities determined the last know location of the flight and found a debris field which was later confirmed to belong to the missing helicopter.
All four people on board, including the pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic, and the patient were confirmed dead on the scene, authorities said. The victims have not yet been publicly identified.
Kern County Sheriff's Office and Fire Department crews were unable to access the crash site for nearly 90 minutes as "fog and darkness hampered the area" Daniel Lynch, Central California EMS Director, told BuzzFeed News.
SkyLife Air Ambulance is a partnership between American Ambulance and Roger's Helicopters which provides air medical transportation for critically ill trauma and medical patients, according to its website.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, FAA spokesperson, Ian Gregor, told BuzzFeed News. He said, "It takes the NTSB months or more to determine a probable cause for an accident."
Gregor said it was Bell 407 helicopter with tail number N408FC.
Lynch said that when dispatchers were unable to contact the helicopter at 7:05 p.m. PST— which left Porterville at 6:52 p.m — they checked with airport towers in Fresno and Bakersfield. When dispatchers determined that neither towers had heard anything from the helicopter, they immediately contacted Kern County authorities to track the craft's last known location according to its GPS.
At around 8:45 p.m. PST, Kern County Sheriff's officials confirmed they found a debris field in the wilderness near the town of McFarland. Ground crews reached the site at 10 p.m. PST and confirmed there were no survivors.
Lynch said the helicopter was manned by a "seasoned crew" who had "been a team for quite a while."
"People are absolutely devastated," American Ambulance president and CEO Todd Valeri told NBC News. "We're just consoling one another, telling stories, crying."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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