Durham County

70-year-old woman was fourth person aboard ill-fated Duke helicopter flight

Duke Life Flight helicopter crashes, kills four

A Duke University Health System helicopter crashed Sept. 8, 2017, killing four people in Perquimans County in eastern North Carolina. The crash occurred around 11:45 a.m. The helicopter was returning to Duke from the Sentara Albemarle Medical Cent
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A Duke University Health System helicopter crashed Sept. 8, 2017, killing four people in Perquimans County in eastern North Carolina. The crash occurred around 11:45 a.m. The helicopter was returning to Duke from the Sentara Albemarle Medical Cent

The fourth victim of Friday’s fatal crash of a Duke Life Flight helicopter was Mary Bartlett, 70, a native and resident of Elizabeth City, according to media reports from eastern North Carolina.

Bartlett was the patient the helicopter was supposed to bring from the Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City to Duke University Hospital.

The craft instead went down in Perquimans County, also killing pilot Jeff Burke, flight nurse Kris Harrison and flight nurse Crystal Sollinger.

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Duke officials, citing federal patient-privacy laws, have released only the names of the the helicopter’s crew. Bartlett’s name surfaced Monday night after one of her daughters, Tiffany Bartlett Thompson, spoke with Portsmouth, Virginia, TV station WAVY.

She told the station her mother was going to Duke Hospital after running into complications from two surgeries for pancreatic cancer. Her family talked to the crew before the helicopter left Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, and “the pilot told us it was the perfect day for flying,” she said.

Weather conditions indeed were clear and virtually cloudless on Friday, the sort that under federal “visual flight rules” impose few constraints on navigation and aircraft operations.

The helicopter went down in a field, at a wind turbine farm that’s marked on aircraft-navigation charts. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

NTSB spokesman Terry Williams has said the board should issue a preliminary report in about a week relating the basics of what it’s learned so far.

A final report with the board’s conclusions about the crash’s cause would normally follow in about a year.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg

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