The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local News

February 2, 2006

Helicopter crash seriously injures 3

Chesterfield — CHESTERFIELD — A middle-of-the-night PHI Air Medical helicopter crash in a neighborhood Thursday injured three aboard but missed becoming a disaster on the ground.

“Either the pilot did a very good job of flying or was extremely lucky,” said Jamie Kimm, Chesterfield police chief. “It could have erupted a gas main and have caught numerous homes on fire. This could have been catastrophic.”

Despite the location, time and severity of the crash, no injuries to the three crew members were life-threatening. The three are in serious condition at Methodist Hospital, according to a Clarion Health Network representative.

The pilot was Mark Bumstead, a longtime employee of PHI, according to Joel Hochhalter, regional program manager for PHI. He said the nurse on the flight was Jennifer Stringfellow and the paramedic was Dan Kelly.

Malba Benefiel, 55, who lives at 524 Vasbinder Drive where the helicopter crashed, learned of the accident at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

“I was at work,” she said. “A neighbor called me. I had to ask her twice when she told me a helicopter hit the garage. Then I started crying.

“It was fortunate I wasn’t home,” Benefiel said. “The neighbor said the smell was bad and there was no electrical power.”

She was staying with friends on Wednesday evening.

“The garage and contents are gone,” she said. “I could stay here, but I don’t think I will.”

Neighbor Jeremiah Moore, 520 Vasbinder Drive, thought a car hit a house.

“It happened about 1:45 a.m.,” he said. “I just happened to be awake. At first it sounded like something hit our house.”

Once outside, Moore said he could see red lights shining and was trying to determine what kind of a car it was.

“You couldn’t tell what it was,” he said.

PHI Air Medical opened in Anderson in October 2004. The company signed a five-year contract with the city to lease hangar space for $3,000 per month. The company also operates helicopters from West Lafayette, Columbus and Eagle Creek Airport in Indianapolis.

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