On Sept. 29, 2005, an Airlift Northwest helicopter was lost in Puget Sound off Edmonds, Wash. taking the lives of the pilot, Steve Smith and two flight nurses, Erin Reed and Lois Suzuki. No patients were on board at the time. Ten years earlier, on Sept.11, 1995, an Airlift Northwest helicopter went down off Bainbridge Island, Washington. Pilot Lee Bothwell and flight nurses Marna Fleetwood and Amy Riebe were lost in that accident. Again, no patients were on board.
"These accidents were extremely tragic, both for the families of those who were lost and for our family at Airlift Northwest," said Stephen Lewis, CEO. "We've been considering for some time the best way to honor these six brave people who gave their lives in service to others. A program that provides assistance with training and education to others who are committed to emergency medical services seems the perfect solution."
The new program includes three components:
A scholarship program for members of the emergency medical services community to be used for EMS-related education that expands their knowledge and capability, with the recipients returning to their agencies to share what they have learned.
A scholarship program for critical care nurses to be used for clinical education that expands their knowledge and capability, with the recipients returning to their agencies to share what they have learned.
A grant program for agencies and hospitals to improve safety practices or equipment related to air medical services.
Airlift Northwest will give out grants and scholarships each year beginning early in 2007 with five $1,000 awards in each category, for a total commitment of $15,000.
Airlift Northwest began when a tragic house fire in Sitka, claimed the lives of five children before they could be safely transported for care. Dr. Michael Copass, Airlift Northwest President and Medical Director who also serves as Director of Emergency Services at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, was teaching in Sitka at the time and was called into the local emergency room to help care for the children. He returned to Seattle, determined to find a way to provide air medical transport to areas around Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Alaska bases are located in Ketchikan and Juneau.