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4 killed in helicopter crash in suburban Maryland

A Maryland State Police medevac helicopter crashed early Sunday morning, killing four passengers during a transport of traffic accident victims from an earlier crash, according to CNN.

The helicopter crashed early Sunday morning, killing four of the five passengers on board, according to Col. Terrence Sheridan of the Maryland State Police.

Helicopter pilot Stephen Bunker, 59; Trooper 1st Class Mickey Lippy, 34; Tanya Mallard, 39, a medical technician; patient Ashley Younger, 17, were identified by police as those killed in Sundays crash.

Patient Jordan Wells, 18, was the lone survivor of the crash and was hospitalized in serious condition, according to Sheridan.

The medevac was responding to a Charles County, Maryland, car crash involving Younger and Wells, according to CNN. The helicopter went down in a wooded suburban community en route to Prince George's Hospital, according to Sheridan.

Helicopter pilot Bunker radioed that he was going back to Andrews Air Force Base, just before midnight, to dodge inclement weather, CNN reports, Shortly after the helicopter lost radio contact and ambulances were sent to Andrews Air Force Base to meet the helicopter and transfer the patients to a trauma center.

The helicopter never landed at Andrews Air Force Base and authorities began a two-hour search before finding the helicopter wreckage at Walker Mill Regional Park, according to CNN.

"This is a devastating tragedy," Sheridan said. "We have had crashes before but never with four dead. This is the worst."

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland State Aviation Command received criticism from a recent state legislative audit for failing to document maintenance costs for its 12 twin-engine helicopters, nine of which are over 18 years old.

However, the last fatal medevac crash was in 1986 during heavy fog in West Baltimore. The helicopter involved in Sundays crash had just received an inspection on Wednesday, according to Sheridan.

The state police have vigorously defended the Maryland State Aviation Command, according to the Baltimore Sun. The state audit noted the "impeccable" record of the state's aviation command.

However, due to budget cuts, it is likely that a three-year plan to replace the medevac helicopters will be cut, according to the Baltimore Sun.