Could texting distraction have led to a series of disastrous mistakes?
The pilot had been off duty for five days before the accident — most of that time at home in Lincoln, Neb. The day before the accident, the pilot checked into the layover hotel in St. Joseph about 1423 and attended a company ground training session at 1630. The pilot's wife spoke with him later that evening and he had “sounded good.” A coworker (an Air Methods communication specialist) also spoke with the pilot by telephone that evening and reported that the pilot stated his training went well. He used his cell phone at about 1123 and again at 0019 on the morning of the accident.
On Aug. 26, the day of the accident, the pilot arrived for his shift sometime before 0630. He spent 20 min. discussing operations with the departing night-shift pilot who recalled later that the accident pilot seemed alert. Coworkers all described him as alert and functioning normally; however, the accident pilot told a coworker during a telephone call at 0830 that he did not sleep well in the hotel and felt tired.
According to cell phone records, the pilot made and received multiple personal calls and text messages throughout the day. The Safety Board correlated cell phone voice and texting records with the day's activities. During the period that the pilot was checking the reconfiguration of the accident aircraft, the pilot received multiple text messages and responded to some. Additional text messages were sent from the pilot's cell phone during time periods when the helicopter was in flight on the accident leg and the preceding leg and while the helicopter was on the Harrison County Community Hospital helipad.