My sincere condolences go out to the Cowley family. May Brent rest in everlasting peace!

By PATTY HENETZ
Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - After successfully hoisting a dehydrated
hiker from a mountain trail, Life Flight helicopter pilot Brent
Cowley wanted to go back up to see how high the chopper had flown
during the rescue.
"We were elated it went so well," flight nurse Denise Ward
said Sunday. But minutes after Cowley lifted off Saturday night,
"there was a loud noise, and immediately the helicopter started
spinning," she said.
The Agusta K-2 helicopter crashed in the foothills above the
Salt Lake Valley, killing Cowley, 49, and injuring Ward, 42, and
paramedic Brian Allred, 34.
Cowley, a 22-year flight veteran, was a retired U.S. Army pilot
who flew missions in Mogadishu, Somalia. He had worked for Life
Flight since 1999. He and his wife, Cheryl, of Farmington, have
seven children.
Ward, of Salt Lake City, suffered only scrapes and bruises. She
said during a Sunday news briefing that she climbed out of the
chopper's nose area, which was destroyed. She called the flight
dispatch center to report the crash and ask how to shut down the
helicopter's engines.
When paramedics arrived, "I told them to attend to Brian, that
he was hurt, and Brent was dead," Ward said.
Cowley died on impact, she said.
Allred's left elbow was dislocated and he suffered heavy bruises
and scrapes. "We hit," said Allred, also a Salt Lake City
resident. "The next thing I remember was Denise's voice, like an
angel, saying 'are you all right?' "
Both survivors said they were certain Cowley had done everything
possible to land safely.
"I believe he saved my life," said Allred. "There is no doubt
in my mind."
It was the second Life Flight helicopter crash in six months.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation
Administration are investigating both crashes, said LDS Hospital
spokesman Jess Gomez.
The helicopter crashed Saturday near 5600 South and Wasatch
Boulevard between 8:11 and 8:14 p.m., according to dispatch logs.
Witnesses on the ground said it appeared something flew off the
tail as it went down.
Gomez and Life Flight director Bill Butts said they couldn't
speculate or comment on the witnesses accounts.
A University of Utah hospital AirMed helicopter flew Allred to
LDS Hospital; Ward was taken by ambulance.
Life Flight has been using hoist mechanisms in rescue operations
for three years, Butts said. It is the only civil organization that
uses hoists for rescues, he said.
The 20-year-old woman the crew plucked off Mount Olympus was
taken to a command center and evaluated. From there, she was taken
by ambulance to a hospital.
Asked whether it was necessary to use a helicopter to rescue a
dehydrated hiker, Gomez said Life Flight never questions the
agencies - in this case, Salt Lake County search and rescue - that
request help.
"They call us. We respond," he said.
Life Flight's helicopter operations have been voluntarily
suspended for an undetermined time. Life Flight will continue
limited fixed-wing services. AirMed services also remain available
for medical rescues.
Life Flight helicopter pilot Craig Bingham and paramedic Mario
Guerrero died in a Jan. 10 crash in dense fog near the Salt Lake
City airport. Nurse Stein Rosqvist was seriously injured.
The helicopter was en route to Wendover to pick up a car wreck
victim. When the pilot determined the fog was too thick to proceed
safely, the chopper turned back and sought to land at the airport.
The cause of the crash hasn't been determined, but fire officials
at the time said the dense fog may have disoriented the pilot.
January's crash was the first major accident in the nearly
25-year history of LDS' Life Flight, Gomez said. Helicopter
operations were suspended for eight days.
That craft also was a two-engine Agusta K-2, made in Italy and
designed for high-altitude flights and extreme weather conditions.
The helicopters cost $4 million each.
Gomez said Sunday there was no apparent connections between the
two crashes.
Butts said that after the January crash, trainers "shored up"
Life Flight instructions, but there were no major changes in the
program.
A helicopter to replace the one lost in January is expected by
June 30, Gomez said.
The craft that crashed Saturday was nine years old, and had
logged 4,800 flight hours, Butts said.
Life Flight helicopters undergo routine inspections every 25
hours. At 2,400 hours, the aircraft are "virtually disassembled,"
inspected and reassembled; the helicopter that crashed Saturday had
been through that maintenance process twice, Butts said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)