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Helicopter Crash’s Potentially Fatal Impact Skillfully Avoided

Friday’s Heroes: AFD Lt. Edward Nieto, PHI Pilot Dave Wortner, and Flight Nurse Robyn Libassi

Albuquerque- Today Mayor Richard J. Berry honored an Albuquerque Fire Department Lieutenant and the crew of a PHI Air Medical helicopter who skillfully maneuvered an aircraft to limit the damage after it had spun out of control last April. Through the crew’s noble actions, what could have been a fatal crash was avoided. This week’s Friday’s Heroes are AFD Lt. Edward Nieto, PHI Pilot Dave Wortner, and Flight Nurse Robyn Libassi.

Last April, immediately after liftoff from the University Hospital roof, a PHI Air Medical helicopter quickly spun out of control. The pilot and crew were extremely concerned that the helicopter would crash down on Lomas Boulevard below, which could result in several fatalities. Fortunately, due to the calm demeanor and skilled control by Pilot Wortner, the helicopter crashed onto the roof of UNMH, right where it had recently lifted off. This strategic maneuvering was paramount to preventing any catastrophic damage. Although the pilot was able to avoid a crash at street level, the crew was not in the clear just yet. Within a matter of seconds the entire crew was at serious risk, as the engine of the helicopter became engulfed in flames from the burning jet fuel. Pilot Wortner and Lt. Nieto both lost consciousness. Once Lt. Nieto regained consciousness, Robyn alerted Lt. Nieto that the helicopter was on fire, and that they needed to evacuate. Robyn left in search of help. Before exiting the helicopter, Lt. Nieto checked on Pilot Wortner and found he had not yet regained consciousness. As the helicopter continued to go up in flames, Lt. Nieto unbuckled the pilot and carried him to safety. When the Lieutenant lifted the Pilot out of the helicopter, he felt extreme pain in his leg, but thought it was a simple bruise from the crash.  Thanks to Robyn’s quick action, UNMH security arrived and began to aid both Pilot Wortner and Lt. Nieto. All crew members were then rushed down to the ER for further evaluation. Later, it was determined that the pain that Lt. Nieto experienced while rescuing Pilot Wortner, was in fact multiple fractures in his leg from the crash.

Each member of the crew acted with great skill and bravery during this accident.  This crash could have been much worse, but thanks to the actions of all the crew members, they each suffered only minor injuries. Not only did the crew save their lives that day, but they also saved the lives of all the people who were so close to the catastrophic accident.