Air 1 Celebrates 25 Years - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Air 1 Celebrates 25 Years

It was early morning around four.  The night was black, the sun had yet to rise and the roads were silent.  Aurelio Mejia was cruising home from work when he was suddenly hit from behind by a car.  His car spun wildly out of control, flipped over several times and burst into flames. The other driver fled the scene. 

Aurelio was alone.  He was trapped in his car, the flames blazing all around him.  To his surprise, a man who witnessed it all and came running to the scorching car, pocket knife in hand.  The man sliced Aurelio's seat belt and pulled him out.  Ambulances rushed to the scene and quickly saw that the man was severely burned and needed intensive care immediately.

East Texas Medical Center's Air 1 was called and flew him to Dallas. All burn patients are transported to Parkland hospital.  His condition was critical and time was racing.  He was able to get there quickly and receive the treatment he needed. 

Today, over 20 years later, Aurelio sits with his grandchildren and tells them how Air 1 saved his life.  "It means so much to me to have survived and to know my grandkids," he said.  

ETMC's Air 1 continues to soar to new heights as they celebrated 25 years of operation this past December.  Air 1 is an essential part of ETMC's unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life in communities throughout East Texas.

Program director Terri Rowden has been with Air 1 since December 2008.  "Air 1 is an exceptional element of the ETMC system as it compliments programs in trauma, STEMI and stroke affiliated areas."

Jim Speier, operations coordinator, said Air 1 provides hospital-to-hospital transport but is also a first responder to direct scene calls where specialized treatment is needed.

Three helicopters are stationed throughout the region including ETMC Tyler, ETMC Athens and Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant.  This allows ETMC to provide high-quality care and rapid transport to residents within 60,000 square miles of the surrounding areas.   

"Air 1 is especially beneficial to our rural areas and when critically ill patients need to get to the hospital right away," Rowden said.

Each aircraft is staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week. All units are teamed with a pilot, a nurse and a paramedic.

 "They are trained, experienced and prepared for anything.  Being in flight can be quite chaotic but it's a whole lot of fun," according to David Witt, chief flight nurse.  

The average one to one-and-a-half hour ambulance route from Mount Pleasant to Tyler dramatically halves when Air 1 is utilized. Air 1 averages 1,300 emergency flights per year.

Air 1 is endorsed by the Commission on Accredited Medical Transport Systems.  CAMTS recognizes Air 1 as one of only 151 medical transport services that exhibit excellence in quality and safety of the highest standards. 

Speier said safety is the focus every time they fly out.  "Our goal is to be able to safely complete each mission without having any issues."

Air 1 is constantly improving with the goal of being better than the year before.  Night vision goggles and OuterLink, an emergency tracking system, have been added to each Air 1 helicopter.

  The future holds endless possibilities with the anticipation of growing the service within the area and one day soon, adding a new fleet of aircraft to the mix. 

ETMC applauds the outstanding service Air 1 has provided over the years. The Air 1 team hopes to continue saving lives, deliver unbeatable patient care to the people of East Texas and maintain their outstanding safety record.


ETMC Air 1 team members

Art Chance, Terri Rowden, David Witt,  Donna Andrews, Darlene Goode,  Shana Brown, Jim Grogan, Celie Jordan, Jerry Pugh, Amanda Bailey, Tara Welch, Abby Meyer, Pete Harris, Sid Ireland, Meghan Richardson, Jim Speier, Charlie Meyer, Steven Jones, Darin Baisden, Charles Cooper, Brad Pace, Kyle Stephenson, Michael Lawyer, Greg Slavinsky, Justin Lumbreraz, Deborah Baisden and Joey Newton .

Pilot staff (Metro Aviation): Mark Stovall , John Grinnell, Tom Nevels. Joe Lebrecque, Joe Stacey, Karl Wellfare, Bob Moehring, Sam Hill, Steven Jones, Barron Decker, Eddie Hanna, Joshua Mamykon, and Mike Rogers,

Mechanics (Metro Aviation): Don Schwartz, Jim Johnson, Will Kensey, and Travis Ulman.

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