The crash of a French-made rescue helicopter in Colorado’s mountains has claimed the life of a Vietnam War hero, Patrick Mahany.
Two helicopter emergency medical personnel flying with Mahany were seriously injured in the crash at Frisco, Colo., 70 miles west of Denver.
The chopper went down shortly after taking off from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center. It could take as much as 10 months to determine why it crashed. Investigators noted it was not even clear what mission the helicopter was on at the time of the crash. There were no patients aboard.
Mahany was a long-time emergency helicopter pilot, one of the most experienced in the nation. He began working with Flight for Life in 1987.
Mahany had been awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for flying a Scout helicopter in Vietnam.
In a book available on Amazon, entitled “Easy Target: The Long Strange Trip of a Scout Pilot in Vietnam,” it is said:
“Flying scout helicopters in Vietnam was the aerial counterpart of walking point. Initially cast as target-spotters for gunships and air-assault forces, the scout pilots evolved into live bait as enemy weapons and tactics improved. Their small helicopters were vulnerable even to minor damage, and parachuting from a damaged bird was impossible. Casualty rates could be as high as 50%; a scout unit often resembled a WWI fighter squadron, with replacements dying almost before they could unpack.”
Friends, neighbors and co-workers celebrated Mahany’s life as part of the national July 4th event in adjacent Breckenridge.
Mahany, 64, lived in nearby Silverthorne.
“Patrick is quite readily the heart and soul of Flight for Life and has been all of the years I’ve known him,” former Flight for Life pilot Kevin Kelble told the Summit Daily News.
When the chopper went down seconds after taking off it crashed into three vehicles in the parking lot, starting a fire. Firefighters were able to control the blaze quickly but Mahany died at the scene.
“The helicopter was an operated EMS helicopter flight repositioning for a purpose we did not know yet,” Jennifer Rodi, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a press conference Friday night. “We understand that shortly after departure, the helicopter started to spin, or rotate, and subsequently impacted the ground.”
She said the investigation will be slow and careful to make sure any potential problems that could lead to additional crashes are discovered.
“If we find any mechanical anomalies we don’t want to rush; we want to make sure we have documented them accurately as they have the potential to affect other aircraft being operated,” Rodi said.
Flying helicopters was in his blood. His son, Ryan Mahany, won an air valor medal for rescuing the crew of a downed helicopter in 2009 in Afghanistan.
“Pat was such a patriot too. This is a good day to celebrate his life,” friend Jeff Baldwin said of his former soccer coach. “This is kind of what he stood for; he was a veteran and a hell of a patriot.”
The helicopter was identified as The chopper was identified as an Airbus AS350 B3e.