Four lost in PHI Bell 407 AeroMed flight . . . Four lost in PHI Bell 407 AeroMed flight enroute to Huntsville TX.

June 8/08

Four people died this morning after their medical helicopter crashed inside the Sam Houston National Forest, officials said.

The company that owns the private air ambulance told federal aviation officials that the Bell 407 helicopter went down about 2:45 a.m. somewhere inside the national park.

“PHI Air Medical is devastated by the loss of the patient and our friends and colleagues,” the company said in a statement. “We mourn with the patient’s family for their loss and are with the families of our colleagues at this time.”

Company officials said they tracked the downed helicopter through the onboard global position system device. It is about 5-10 miles from Huntsville Memorial Hospital.

“We have personnel on site,” said PHI spokesman Jonathan Collier.

The company identified the three crewmembers who perished as pilot Wayne Kirby; flight nurse Jana Bishop and flight paramedic Stephanie Waters.

The air medical team was based at Coulter Field in Bryan, officials said.

“They were tremendous people and great crewmembers,” Collier said. “I am very proud of them.”

The identity of the patient was being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin, company officials said.

The helicopter left Huntsville Memorial Hospital and was heading to another hospital in Houston when it crashed, officials said.

“We’re just looking for it. We don’t have any other information right now,” said Chief Deputy Butch Davis, with the Walker County Sheriff’s Department.

Investigators with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday were heading to the scene, officials said.

The helicopter is owned by Lafayette, La.-based PHI, Inc. According to the company’s Web site, it also provides helicopter services to the offshore oil and gas and mining industries.The Sam Houston National Forest is about 50 miles north of Houston. It covers more than 167,000 acres in Montgomery, San Jacinto and Walker counties.