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Incident Name: Unknown what the helicopter incident was named, but Mike and his hotshot crew were working on the Walla Valley Fire on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon when he was stung. He died during an inter-hospital helicopter collision two days later that was independent of the fire and the initial bee sting.
Date: 08/29/08 1547 hrs
Personnel: Michael James MacDonald
Age: 26
Agency/Organization: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Blackfeet Tribe, Montana; one Air Evac Helicopter operated by Air Methods Corporation, Englewood, CO; the other one was operated by Classic Helicopter Services, Page, AZ
Position: Chief Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Member

Summary: On June 27, Firefighter Michael Mcdonald was battling a fire on the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park when he was bitten by an insect and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Then 2 days later, he suffered anaphylactic shock from antibiotics and was being flown by medical helicopter to the Flagstaff Medical Center.

Approximately 1/4-mile from the hospital, the helicopter collided with another medical-transport helicopter that was also on approach to the hospital. The crash killed Firefighter MacDonald and six other people in the two aircraft.

Photo compliments of the Blackfeet tribe

Mike MacDonald Mike MacDonald

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Field East of the Flagstaff AZ Medical Center

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Forest Service: Briefing on Helicopter Air Ambulance Collision
  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, USFS, and research by the WLF Staff:
    • June 29, 2008 - EMS Helicopters collision
    • 1 wildland firefighter killed: Michael MacDonald; and 6 others including pilots and medical staff
    • Classic Helicopter Services, Page, Arizona, and registered to M&J Leisure, L.L.C., Ogden, Utah
    • BELL 407
    • mid-air collision of two EMS helicopters at the Flagstaff Medical Center, Flagstaff, AZ
    • Registration tail number: N407MJ
    • NTSB # DEN08MA116
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Factual Report (77 K pdf)
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html) | Probable Cause (233 K pdf)

    Both helicopter pilots’ failure to see and avoid the other helicopter on approach to the helipad. Contributing to the accident were the failure of N407GA’s pilot to follow flight arrival route guidelines, and the failure of N407MJ’s pilot to follow communications guidelines requiring him to report his position within a minimum of 5 miles from the helipad.

  • NTSB: Full Narrative (html)
  • For additional information about this crash, consult the NTSB Query Web Page: NTSB Identification # DEN08MA116.
  • US Forest Service Heroes Memorial: Michael MacDonald
  • SAFENET Safety Bulletin (38 K pdf)

    FROM: National Wildfire Coordinating Group


    DATE: 07/02/2008

    SUBJECT: SAFETY BULLETIN: Firefighter Fatality, Air Ambulance Collision

    A wildland firefighter was killed in a private medical helicopter collision while being transported from the Grand Canyon to a Flagstaff, Arizona hospital on Sunday afternoon, June 29, 2008. Five other occupants of the two air ambulances were also killed and one occupant is listed in critical condition. Two responding ground personnel also received minor burns when the wreckage sustained a secondary explosion. Additional responding Forest Service units suppressed the wildfire caused by the crash.

    The firefighter was a member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots, a Bureau of Indian Affairs funded Native American crew based on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. The crew was assigned to the Walla Valley Fire on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

    The firefighter required treatment for a spider bite and was transported the South Rim Helibase by fire helicopter. While being treated at the local clinic he experienced an adverse reaction to the medication and was being transported by a private air ambulance to Flagstaff Medical Center. This helicopter collided with another medical helicopter as they were both on final approach to the Flagstaff hospital.

    The accident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Photo credit: David C. Tedesco

    Medical Helicopters Crash Medical Helicopters Crash

  • Photo Credit: Flagstaff Police Department

    Medical Helicopters Crash Medical Helicopters Crash

  • Memorial and Obituary: (332K pdf file) Great Falls Tribune
  • 2 medical helicopters collide in Flagstaff; 6 killed, 3 injured

    July , 2008 | Online Article

    FLAGSTAFF - Six people were killed and three were injured Sunday after two helicopters collided near a Flagstaff hospital and set off an explosion that blasted emergency responders off their feet, federal and local authorities said. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said no bystanders on the ground were hurt. No names have been released. Officials are still trying to reach the victims' families... (much more at the link)

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes


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Contributors to this article: Mellie, John Miller, Rene Vanderhooft

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