When Avera McKennan's Careflight crew is called in to action they can be off the ground and in the air in 10 minutes. They average two transports a day, but as you saw last week during the tour bus crash, the number went up significantly that day. Here's more on the medical crew that saves lives in the air.
Emergency air transportation proved crucial on March 26th when a tour bus crashed near Madison. Avera McKennan's Careflight crews airlifted patients from the scene of the crash to Sioux Falls for nearly two hours. With serious injuries like this every second counts.
Careflight RN Lonny Heinemann says, "We can fly over obstacles, over bad roads. It's faster because we can go in a straight direction."
Lead paramedic Brian Erickson and along with Heinemann are part of the 100 member team with the Careflight Department. Typically there are 3 crew members on board. When they aren't in the air, they are helping in the E.R.
Heinemann says, "Anything you find initially when you come in the emergency department you would find in our helicopter. All the medicine, equipment, heart monitors... you name it, we have it."
Avera McKennan has had Careflight as part of their fleet for 22 years. 13 years ago they added an airplane. This year they upgraded the KingAir 200 and it is first class for the critically ill.
Leif Carlson is the Director of Air Ambulance Service. He says, "The helicopter is good for 100-150 nautical miles from here. Platte, Estherville.. anything past that takes too long for the helicopter to get out and back so that's when we send the fixed wing (plane).
The turbo prop was retro fitted with all new interior, new lifeport unit where the patient lies and state of the art equipment. It holds up to 7 people. I asked Lonny Heinemann if he ever gets nervous.
He says, "Yes, but not about flying. We don't always know what we are getting into. Sometimes it's a lot worse when you get there but there is an adrenaline rush knowing you are helping people. That's the best part of the job.
And isn't it nice to know they will get you out of what ever mess you're in and get you to safety..STAT. Unlike the helicopter that lands at the hospital, the plane lands at the airport where a Careflight Ambulance is waiting to rush to the hospital.