“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 “Life-Bird-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.
Harold Browning was the pilot aboard the craft and had been joined by lead flight paramedic Danny Nelson, EMT-P and a second flight paramedic Eddie Sands, EMT-P for the mission. Upon impact, both Harold Browning and Danny Nelson 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 70% burns that he had sustained from the earlier accident in Gwinnett County that prompted the medivac flight.
Harold Browning had dedicated his life as a helicopter pilot and had brought back significant flying experience as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Upon returning to the United States, he quickly saw that medical helicopter trauma care and transportation for injured victims did not exist in most areas of the country. He then set out to excel in obtaining his commercial FAA helicopter flying certificate and continued to raise his proficiency by completing advanced pilot continuing education courses and also continued to gain even more flying experience as the years went by. Harold Browning will be long remembered as a true pioneer in the arena of helicopter patient transportation and a true inspiration to both the field of flight EMS and the field of military MEDIVAC aviation.
Submitted to NEMSM September by Tom Barlet