NTSB report says 2013 Learjet crash could have been prevented

Air ambulance crashed into Atlantic Ocean off Fort Lauderdale, killing 4

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The National Transportation Safety Board is blaming the pilot and co-pilot for a 2013 Learjet crash in Fort Lauderdale that killed four Mexican nationals.

In what was supposed to be an uneventful ending to a medical mission, the Learjet 35 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 19, 2013, shortly after takeoff from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The air ambulance -- carrying a doctor and a nurse who had just dropped off a patient at a hospital in South Florida -- was bound for Mexico when the pilot declared mayday minutes after takeoff.

In a newly released report from the NTSB, investigators blame the crash on an engine malfunction and believe the fatal crash could have been prevented.

"The airplane required two fully-qualified flight crew members; however, the co-pilot was not qualified to act as second-in-command on the airplane, and he provided no meaningful assistance to the pilot in handling the emergency," the report said in part.

It went on to say that the plane "would have been more easily controlled and could have been successfully landed."

Curtis Mase, a South Florida attorney specializing in aviation law, called the crash "sloppy" and "negligent."

"What's striking about it is they had the training and the tools to save themselves and the plane, and they just didn't follow them," Mase said.

Mase, who is not involved in the case, said he's surprised that the pilot and co-pilot never bothered to go through a preflight checklist.

"They hopped in and they took off, and that is fundamentally unsafe," Mase said.

Mase said he hopes the crash serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who travels by air.

"If you're flying a major U.S. airline, there's really no question about their safety," Mase said. "But the fact of the matter is, when you go down to smaller, charter, solo, particularly foreign operations, I think any one of your viewers needs to do due diligence for their own safety."

AirEvac International released a statement in response to the NTSB's report.

"It is with a heavy heart we receive the findings of the NTSB report," the statement said. "We continue to mourn the loss of our transport team that was involved in this tragic accident."

Local 10 News previously reported that AirEvac international was responsible for the ill-fated flight. We regret the error.

About the Authors:

Peter Burke returned for a second stint of duty at Local 10 News in February 2014.