AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press Writer FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.
Ground dispatchers for two medical helicopters involved in a fatal collision and at least one of the pilots knew the choppers were heading to a Flagstaff hospital at about the same time, according to a federal report released Wednesday. But there is no indication in the initial National Transportation Safety Board report that the pilots were actively looking for each other in the moments before they collided. And it is unclear if the second helicopter's pilot knew about the other flight. There were no recorded communications between the pilots of the two helicopters. "The report still leaves a lot of questions, but that's what a preliminary is," NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said. The helicopters collided on June 29 less than a mile from Flagstaff Medical Center. One exploded soon after crashing in a clearing, while the other crashed into dense forest but did not explode. All seven people aboard the choppers died, including a Montana firefighter. One of the helicopters was operated by Air Methods from Englewood, Colo., and the other was from Classic Helicopters of Woods Cross, Utah. The report details communications between the pilots, their company ground controllers and hospital workers preparing for their arrivAl. Each had a patient on board. About a half-hour before the collision, a dispatcher at Guardian Air, a subsidiary of Air Methods, radioed that company's pilot and told him that another craft would be landing at about the same time, according to the NTSB report. "Roger, will be looking for 'em. Thanks," the Air Methods pilot responded, according to the report. When the pilot of the Classic helicopter radioed in to his dispatcher, the report says the dispatcher responded: "Comm center copies all, sir ... I'll talk to you on the ground in 15 minutes." The report doesn't show that the Classic pilot was told of the other flight. Holloway said it is possible he was told and the recording investigators listened to may have been damaged or incomplete. The report draws no conclusions on the cause of the collision. That will be determined after an investigation expected to take about a year. Killed in the collision were: Michael MacDonald, 26, of Browning, Mont.; Shawn "Clyde" Shreeve Jr., 36, of Flagstaff; Raymond Zest, 55; Patrick Graham, 51, of Flagstaff; Tom Caldwell, 54, of Page, Ariz.; Tom Clausing, 36, of Leavenworth, Wash.; and James Taylor, 36, of Salt Lake City. MacDonald and Zest were patients, Shreeve, Clausing and Taylor were flight medics and Graham and Caldwell were the pilots.