Area Medical Helicopter Crashes in Choctawhatchee Bay

A medical helicopter from Sacred Heart Hospital in south Walton County crashed during the early morning hours Wednesday and the three people on board were killed

AirHeart One was on a flight from Santa Rosa Beach to DeFuniak Springs around 12:30 Wednesday morning when it was last heard from. Severe weather was in the area at the time.

Sources indicated that the chopper went down in Choctawhatchee Bay several miles east of the US 331 Bridge in the Point Washington area. A pilot, a nurse and a paramedic were on the flight

The bodies of all three have been recovered from the bay east of the Clyde Wells Bridge on US 331.

NewsChannel Seven was told by sources that even though AirHeart One was last heard from at 12:30 Wednesday morning it was never reported overdue.

When the relief pilot went to work Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. he noticed the chopper was missing and sounded the alarm. The search began within the hour. No one had heard from the Helicopter and apparently no one thought to check on it after it reported severe weather in the area.

Sacred Heart Hospital officials, operators of the Helicopter, said the chopper was making a call from its home base in South Walton County and was headed north to DeFuniak Springs when the pilot radioed severe weather over the Freeport area was forcing him to turn back. That's the last that was heard.

Randy Layman, Director of AirHeart Operations was asked by NewsChannel Seven about the almost six hour delay before the aircraft was discovered missing and a search was started. He didn't comment, other than to say it was being investigated.

The crash also grounded AirHeart's other northwest Florida air ambulance and its crew. Sacred Heart suspended indefinitely operations for AirHeart Two, which is based at the Marianna Airport in Jackson County.

It began operations just last December serving a 75 mile radius surrounding the Marianna area.

In the meantime, teams of federal investigators have arrived in Walton County to try and piece together what happened to cause AirHeart One to crash into Choctawhatchee Bay.