A fatal collision between two emergency medical service helicopters in Flagstaff, Arizona has prompted the US National Transportation Safety Board's chairman Mark Rosenker to become closely involved in the investigation.

Following a spate of serious EMS helicopter accidents in the USA since 2000, the NTSB decided to carry out a full study of the industry sector's safety, which it published early in 2006, but the lessons learned clearly did not stop this accident happening, and Rosenker wants to know why.

The NTSB describes the accident: "At 15:48 local time on 29 June, two Bell 407 EMS helicopters, N407GA operated by Air Methods, and N407MJ operated by Classic Helicopters, collided less than a mile from the Flagstaff Medical Center while both approached the hospital for landing. There are reports of six fatalities."

No formal statements have been added since then, but the NTSB confirms that all six of the fatalities were people on board the helicopters.

The agency also says that this is the eighth EMS helicopter accident in the USA this year, and the fatalities total in that category has risen to 16. There was reported to be one survivor of the Flagstaff collision, a nurse who suffered critical injuries.

One of the subjects the NTSB says will be under scrutiny will be whether the hospital has any system for co-ordinating EMS movements in its vicinity. Matt Stein, a management pilot with Classic Helicopters, says it is up to the pilots to look out for each other.

Source: Flight International