EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 6, 2013

Helicopter not available for Salem crash victims

Helicopter wasn't available for Salem motorcycle crash victims

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM, N.H. — When two people received head injuries in a motorcycle accident Thursday, Salem firefighters didn’t hesitate to request a medical helicopter to fly them to the hospital.

The only problem was a helicopter wasn’t available in either New Hampshire or Massachusetts because of several other calls for assistance on what was a busy Fourth of July holiday for rescue personnel.

So instead of a helicopter picking up Timothy Holland, 38, of Windham and his 12-year-old passenger, two Salem ambulances were sent to the Millville Street crash scene.

While the young boy was taken to Lawrence General Hospital in one ambulance, a disoriented Holland was transported in the other. The hospital’s special paramedic unit then met the second ambulance on Route 28, fire Capt. Timothy Kenney said.

The special unit — two paramedics in a sport utility vehicle — then sped along the busy roadway to the hospital.

It was the first time in years a medical helicopter wasn’t available to transport a patient because of other calls for assistance, Salem Assistant fire Chief Paul Parisi. If a helicopter isn’t available, it’s usually because inclement conditions would make flying dangerous, he said.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Parisi said. “They are a great resource to have. It’s not often there is a case we can’t handle.”

Parisi said it was only the third time in 20 years when a helicopter wasn’t available for a reason other than poor flying conditions.

When Salem rescue personnel responded to the crash about 3:45 p.m., the injured pair were lying on the lawn at 174 Millville St., Kenney said. The northbound Honda motorcycle failed to negotiate a curve in the road, he said.

Speed is not believed to be a factor and it’s unknown if drug or alcohol contributed to the crash, police Sgt. Thomas Kench said. The crash is still under investigation, he said.

Holland and his young passenger, whose name was not released, are recovering from the accident. While the boy was treated at the hospital and released, Holland remained in stable condition there yesterday, a Lawrence General spokesman said.

If injured patients need advanced medical care, local fire departments contact Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center or Boston MedFlight.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock keeps one of its two aircraft at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport while Boston MedFlight, based in Bedford, Mass., staffs three helicopters, including one in Lawrence.

If other help is needed, there are at least five other medical helicopters stationed throughout New England, according to Charles Blathras, operations manager for Boston MedFlight. A helicopter from Lawrence can respond to Salem in sefen

Blathras and Dartmouth-Hitchcock spokesman Michael Barwell said it’s infrequent that their emergency response teams cannot respond because of multiple calls. But in just in case, fire departments have a back-up plan for assistance, such as the one deployed by Salem on Thursday.

Barwell said he wasn’t authorized to disclose why a flight wasn’t available.

“There were other calls in that area when we had that one,” Blathras said. “It’s not often we have to say we can’t come. (Thursday) was a really busy day for us.”

It’s a situation that occurs only once every several months with no major problems because backup service is available, he said.