Sunday's accident atop the I-10 bridge sparked lots of attention after an Air Med helicopter landed twice on the bridge to air lift victims. Despite the initial shock of seeing a helicopter land on the bridge, officials with Acadian Ambulance say the bridge is a safe place to land.
In fact many fire departments and law enforcement agencies are trained to recognize safe and unsafe landing zones for choppers.
When an Air Med helicopter arrives, it's almost certain the accident is serious.
"Acadian's air med helicopters fly the most first response missions of any service in the nation," said Air Med Operations Manager Marc Creswell. "We fly 7,000 times a year and we transport in the neighborhood of 3,000 patients per year."
When the call comes in, the Acadian Ambulance dispatch center analyzes the call before passing instructions over to the crew. No matter the severity of the call, Air Med crews must then make sure they're not putting themselves in danger before taking off.
"The general public probably doesn't understand everything that goes on in these helicopters," said Creswell. "There's lots of weather analysis, and there's lots of considerations taken on where we're going to land at. Where you may see a good clear day, one hour down the road, the weather could be forecasted to be bad and we may not be able to fly, even though the prevailing conditions are clear."
If it's clear to fly, Creswell says the pilot and medic aboard the chopper work with fire departments and law enforcement agencies on scene to locate a place to land.
Medic Derek Faul arrived on scene first via ground ambulance to Sunday's accident.
"Once we're there, we're treating the patients and we have first responders that are trained throughout the year, a lot of time with fire departments, police and sheriff's departments," said Faul. "They're going to take charge, they're going to go on the frequency that we have, that they share with us, and land that helicopter safely."
The choppers can even carry multiple passengers if necessary.
"If we need it, we can take this seat, flip it around against the pilot's back right here," said Faul. "We have a second stretcher that will actually strap in so we can transport two patients at one time."
Faul has been with Air Med since 2004. He says the job is rewarding.
"Obviously it's a good feeling," said Faul. "You hate to see anybody in that condition, because you know that they're suffering and so is there family. But at the same time, you know you're a part of helping them and doing the right thing for them."
Air Med also has a helicopter capable of responding to offshore incidents. They just added a new chopper to their fleet, complete with weather radar and a higher capability night vision system.