RENO, Nev. (AP) — The company that owns the medical transport aircraft that crashed in northern Nevada last week, killing all five people aboard, has been tied to two other fatal crashes in the last four years.
A review of records shows that with the latest crash, 11 people total have now died on planes owned and operated by Guardian Flight, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Friday.
The company is also now facing its fourth National Transportation Safety Board probe since 2018, said Bruce Landsberg, NTSB vice chairman.
A single-engine Pilatus PC12 was heading from Reno to Salt Lake City on Feb. 24 when investigators say it broke apart. It plummeted to the ground near rural Stagecoach, 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Reno. The dead included pilot, Scott Walton, 46, and two medical crew members, Edward Pricola, 32, and Ryan Watson, 27. The patient was Mark Rand, 69. His wife, Terri Rand, 66, had been accompanying him.
Sarah Sulick, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board, said Thursday a seven-member team sent to Nevada over the weekend to investigate the crash was wrapping up the on-site portion of their investigation. She said the team recovered electronic navigation equipment from the plane at the crash site and has sent it to the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., for analysis.
A preliminary report outlining the agency’s initial findings will be released “in the next week or so,” Sulick said, while a final report containing the crash’s probable cause is expected within the next two years.
The flight was a Care Flight, which is a service of REMSA Health. Care Flight's aviation vendor is Guardian Flight. REMSA has grounded its Care Flights for now.
Jena Esposito, KPS3 PR manager and a spokesperson for REMSA, declined comment and deferred inquiries to Guardian Flight, which did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Private services for the Care Flight crew killed are expected to take place over the next week. Care Flight plans to hold a public memorial service for crash victims Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
Guardian Flight has more than 60 aircraft flying out of 60 locations, including Hawaii and Alaska.
In December, a Hawaii Life Flight medical transport crew was en route to get a patient when they crashed into the ocean off Maui. Investigators found the bodies of the three crew members and wreckage a month later. The cause is still under investigation.
In January 2019, a medical transport aircraft crashed outside Juneau, Alaska. A pilot, nurse and paramedic on their way to get transport a patient were killed. The bodies of the crew have yet to be found. After a nearly two-year investigation, the NTSB could not determine the cause.
A 2018 crash in Arizona did not result in any fatalities. Authorities say it was caused by autopilot error and pilot overcorrection.
An aviation attorney representing relatives of the Rands, who died in the Feb. 24 crash, told the AP that the tragedy was “absolutely preventable.”
“It really starts with the decision to go in the first place, which never should have been made,” said Dan Rose, a former Navy pilot who has been litigating aviation cases for 25 years.
Rose said he is looking forward to NTSB’s preliminary report, which he hopes will provide more details about the overall conditions at the time of the nighttime crash, which occurred amid a winter storm.
He declined to say what condition Mark Rand suffered from. But it wasn’t “life critical,” and he had been dealing with it for several months before the crash.
Associated Press writer Rio Yamat in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
The Associated Press