'Absolute miracle': No serious injuries after medical helicopter crashes on way to pediatric hospital

The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon in suburban Pennsylvania.

January 12, 2022, 2:20 PM

A medical helicopter that crashed while transporting an infant to a Pennsylvania hospital Tuesday afternoon made a "miraculous landing," with no serious injuries reported, authorities said.

The helicopter was traveling to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia when the accident occurred in Drexel Hill, a neighborhood in suburban Upper Darby Township, just a few miles from the hospital.

Police received reports of a helicopter in distress around 1 p.m., before locating the aircraft after it had crash-landed next to a church.

The helicopter had steady speed and altitude until it reached the site of the crash, at which point witnesses and video evidence saw it "maneuvering erratically," Brian Rayner, a senior safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a press briefing Wednesday.

PHOTO: A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pa., Jan. 11, 2022.
A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pa., Jan. 11, 2022.
Matt Rourke/AP

All four people on board sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were hospitalized in stable condition, authorities said. No residents were injured, and there was no debris from the crash.

"It's an absolute miracle," Upper Darby Township Police Department Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt told reporters at the scene Tuesday.

A flight medic, flight nurse and the patient were uninjured in the crash, according to Rayner. The pilot was injured, though the nature of his injuries at this time are unclear.

"I'm very grateful that the occupants were relatively unhurt," Rayner said. "The pilot is the most significantly injured. The other three, miraculously, unhurt."

The helicopter was damaged, but is in "excellent shape" evidence-wise, according to Rayner, who said he "has a great deal of confidence" the agency will be able to determine what caused the crash.

PHOTO: A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pa., Jan. 11, 2022.
A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pa., Jan. 11, 2022.
Matt Rourke/AP

Fire officials were concerned about the aircraft igniting and worked to contain the fuel.

"This was a miraculous landing," Upper Darby Fire Chief Derick Sawyer told reporters Tuesday.

PHOTO: A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pa., Jan. 11, 2022.
A medical helicopter rests next to the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church after it crashed in the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, Pa., Jan. 11, 2022.
Matt Rourke/AP

The Federal Aviation Administration also is investigating the crash.

"Our team will cooperate fully with their efforts to assess the cause of this unfortunate accident," Doug Flanders, vice president of communications for Air Methods, which owns the helicopter, said in a statement to ABC News.

The EC 135 aircraft was from the LifeNet program, based in Hagerstown, Maryland, according to Flanders.

The helicopter was transporting a pediatric patient from WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia, a spokesperson for WellSpan Health confirmed to ABC News.

"Our hearts go out to family and crew on board and we are grateful that early reports indicate the patient and crew survived and that the patient was transported on to the planned hospital by ground transport," WellSpan Health spokesperson Ryan Coyle said in a statement.

ABC News' Alexandra Faul contributed to this report.

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