By Danny Tindell
The parents of a flight nurse killed in a Coffee County air ambulance crash last year will receive $5 million from the helicopter operator.
A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge approved the settlement award Monday to the family of Stacey Cernadas, who was aboard a Haynes Air Ambulance emergency flight that crashed in Coffee County March 26, 2016. The settlement will be paid by Metro Aviation of Shreveport, La.
Three members of a Haynes Air Ambulance crew, along with a patient, were killed on March 26, when the ambulance helicopter they were flying crashed in Coffee County. The Haynes Air Ambulance had responded to an automobile accident after 11 p.m. on Coffee County Road 606, near the Goodman community, west of Enterprise. The automobile accident victim was unconscious and suffering from a broken leg. The downed helicopter was found near the intersection of County roads 615 and 616, about one-half mile from the site of the automobile wreck.
“This is such a tragedy,” said Gary C. Robb, a Kansas City aviation attorney appointed by the courts to represent Cernadas’ estate. “The people involved in this crash loved helping and saving people. It is just so sad. Those who were so dedicated to saving lives lost their lives trying to save a life. Representing someone who was so dedicated to helping others, well, it has been an honor to represent Stacey.”
Robb expressed appreciation to Metro Aviation for reaching a settlement relatively quickly.
“I must commend Metro Aviation,” Robb said. “They really stepped up and took responsibility to resolve this matter. Metro Aviation stepped up before a suit was even filed and we commend them for that.”
Metro Aviation admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement. A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board determined the helicopter took off in fog, mist and reduced visibility, disappearing in a cloud layer 150 feet above ground level and reaching an altitude of about 1,100 feet for just a few seconds before a rapid descent which ended when the helicopter crashed into the woods.
The report also stated the helicopter used for the life flight was not “certificated” for flight in Instrument Meteorological Conditions, which are weather conditions that require pilots to fly primarily by reference to instruments rather than visually. The report did not indicate whether the pilot was relying on instruments at the time of the crash.