Medevac firm noted for post-crash safety
THE COMPANY whose medical evacuation plane crashed on Mauna Kea, killing three people on Jan. 31, 2004, has received an award for its excellent safety record since the accident.
Hawaii Air Ambulance was honored by the Association of Air Medical Services, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit that presents the awards to reward programs that reach certain safety benchmarks, said group spokeswoman Blair Beggan.
A company that has an accident must start at zero to reach the benchmarks for safety awards, Beggan said.
Hawaii Air Ambulance had 3,000 accident-free missions between Jan. 31, 2004, and Sept. 15, 2005, she said. The Hawaii company was one of many receiving a safety award for 3,000 safe missions, she said.
A program in Ontario, Calif., was recognized for more than 100,000 safe missions, she said.
Beggan noted that Hawaii Air Ambulance, the state's only fixed-wing aero-medical service, had 36,000 accident-free missions before its Cessna 414A aircraft crashed on the Big Island.
The wreckage was found at the 3,600-foot elevation, about 22 miles northwest of Hilo. Paramedics Mandy Shiraki, 47, and Joseph Daniel Villiaros, 39, and pilot Ron Laubacher, 38, were killed.
Officials said then that the plane might have deviated from the usual flight route to avoid bad weather. The National Transportation Safety Board has not issued a report on its investigation.
Hawaii Air Ambulance was recognized for its commitment to safety in 27 years of operation when awards were presented at the 25th Annual Air Medical Transport Conference last month in Austin, Texas.
Its fleet of five aircraft provides emergency interisland transportation for patients, operating more than 2,000 interisland flights annually as well as trans-Pacific and nurse escort flights.
"When you're saving lives, safety is always priority No. 1, but to get this level of recognition for just doing our job, we never expected it," said Andy Kluger, the company's president and chief executive.
Tom Judge, president of the Association of Air Medical Services, said it wanted to "bring safety to the forefront" with the award program.