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The last minutes of Bayflite 3

By ADAM C. SMITH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2000


The last rescue call for Bayflite 3 came at 10:02 a.m. Tuesday.

Four minutes later, pilot Mark Wallace, flight nurse Alicia Betita-Collins and flight paramedic Erik J. Hangartner were lifting off from St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa en route to a severe injury at an office across the bay.

At 10:15, they touched down in the parking lot of Colts Laboratories off U.S. 19 and Drew Street. The patient had injured his head in a fall.

For everybody but the patient, it was routine.

"It was a good call, everybody working well," recalled Clearwater paramedic Nelson De Jesus. "No question it was life-saving having them at the scene."

Seven minutes after touchdown, Bayflite 3 was headed to Bayfront Medical Center. The ground paramedics got a call from pilot Wallace.

"He came on the radio in the ambulance and said, "Thank you very much. You guys did excellent work. . . . We appreciate all you do,' " De Jesus recalled.

Bayflite 3 arrived at Bayfront six minutes later. The patient remained there Wednesday, though his condition was not known. Bayflite 3 took to the air for the last time at 12:12 p.m., bound for Tampa.

De Jesus reflected on the last call from Wallace:

"When you look back on it, it's really touching, because they don't usually say anything. Those were the last words that were heard from them."

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