National EMS Museum People Files, NEMSM-0003 [Please include Folder/Person’s Name]

Danny Nelson, EMT-P


“Life-Bird-III” was a custom configured Bell 206L medical helicopter operated by Metro Ambulance Service, Inc out of its headquarters in Marietta, Georgia. Metro had become one the first private ambulance services to operate its own medical transport helicopter which began in 1979.

On May 20, 1985 “Lifebird-III” received a flight mission to Joan Glancy Hospital in Duluth, Georgia which was located in suburban Atlanta’s Gwinnett County. Less than an hour earlier, the patient had been involved in an accident in Gwinnett County where he received severe burns over 70% of his body. “Life-Bird-III” had been requested to fly the patient to a regional burn center in Atlanta. Upon lift-off from the hospital, the helicopter apparently struck a light pole and crashed.

Danny Nelson, EMT-P was the lead flight paramedic aboard the craft and had been joined by pilot Harold Browning and a second flight paramedic Eddie Sands, EMT-P for the mission. Upon impact, both Danny Nelson and Harold Browning were instantly killed. Flight paramedic Eddie Sands sustained  injuries, but later recovered. The patient also survived the crash, only to expire several days later from complications pertaining to the original 70% burns that he had sustained from the earlier accident.

Danny Nelson had dedicated his life to EMS and had seen its evolvement in Cobb County, Georgia from the days when funeral homes still operated ambulances. He began as a basic emergency medical technician and soon rose to become a paramedic and later completed specialized training in both critical care patient transportation and MediVac flight operations while at Metro Ambulance Service. Danny Nelson will be long remembered as a true pioneer in the arena of helicopter patient transportation and a true inspiration to both the field of EMS and the paramedic profession.

Submitted to NEMSM by T. Barlett

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