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Same model of helicopter that crashed in Brainerd involved in previous incidents, injuries

Updated: June 28, 2019 06:17 PM

The North Memorial medical helicopter that crashed in Brainerd early Friday morning was the same model of aircraft that crashed less than three years earlier in Alexandria.

Three crew members, also with North Memorial, narrowly survived that crash when their AgustaWestland A-109 went down during deteriorating weather conditions in September 2016.

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5 EYEWITNESS NEWS found flight paramedic Miles Weske sued the manufacturers of the helicopter in 2018, alleging a long list of "design and/or manufacturing defects."

One month later, the National Transportation Safety Board found pilot error to be the probable cause of the crash.

Weske, who declined to comment Friday, voluntarily dismissed the suit.

The same model of helicopter was also involved in another incident at North Memorial in 2005. According to the NTSB, no one was injured during a hard landing at the hospital shortly after takeoff.

RELATED: Pilot, nurse killed in helicopter crash at Brainerd airport

NTSB records reveal the same model of helicopter has been involved in 35 incidents in the U.S. over the last 20 years, resulting in 29 deaths.

No one with AgustaWestland returned calls for comment about the recent crashes or the lawsuit filed in 2018.

North Memorial's website touts that its pilots are certified to "fly by instrument," making them able to fly "when weather has grounded other pilots."

Bruce Weymier is a former member of the hospital's air care team, working as a paramedic from 2010 to 2015. He says decisions about whether to take off or land were always "joint efforts" made by everyone onboard.

"If you feel unsafe, they'll abort the mission and you can just say 'no,'" Weymier said. "Even with a patient onboard, your eyes are outside. You're looking for buildings, trees, anything that's on the ground that could impede your landing or takeoff."

North Memorial's air care team first received accreditation from the National Accreditation Alliance Medical Transport Applications (NAAMTA) in October 2016 – one month after the hospital's helicopter crashed in Alexandria.

No one from NAAMTA returned calls for comment, but according to rules on the group's website, North Memorial will need to get its accreditation renewed later this year.

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