11/29/2012 2:43:00 AM Restored VVMC medical chopper back in the air
Verde Valley Medical Center officials said repair costs to the Angel-3 medical helicopter totaled about $250,000. VVN/Jon Hutchinson
Butts case continues
CAMP VERDE -- While the medical staff was celebrating the return of the VVMC medical helicopter Monday, an attorney for the alleged fire-bombing suspect was speaking for him in court.
Richard Butts appeared in his jail orange during a brief case management conference. Attorney Terry Hance told the court that he has submitted documentation on Butts' mental status at the time of the May arson. He suggested that the case could turn to a "non-trial resolution," a plea agreement.
In the meantime, both Hance and the County Attorney's Office said they have not seen a figure on the cost of the damage
Judge Michael Bluff set a new case management conference for Jan. 7.
COTTONWOOD -- Angel-3, the medical helicopter based at Verde Valley Medical Center, is back is business. The $3 million Bell 407 helicopter has been out of service since it was allegedly "fire-bombed" in May by Richard Butts, at the time a vagrant living in a nearby wash.
The damaged helicopter was trucked to Louisiana to Bell Helicopter repair facilities to be repaired and repainted. Then, for the last two weeks, the helicopter returned to Flagstaff where it has been running medical missions to work out any remaining problems.
Verde Valley Medical Center had a small celebration Monday to hail the return of the chopper just hours after the four-passenger craft returned to the Cottonwood hospital. Wade Patten, director for Guardian Air, says the chopper averages about one flight each day. The helicopter based at Flagstaff Medical Center has a volume about one-third greater.
Patten says during the six-month period the helicopter was being repaired, another Bell helicopter was leased to the Medical Center.
He said there was no noticeable impact to the public, but there was a lot of financial consideration.
A lot of the repairs were "cosmetic," he said. Many of the plastic fittings had melted and were changed out. The wiring harness from the control panel of the cockpit was changed. Fibreglass windows were replaced. The craft's blades were changed out as well.
Patten said the repairs totaled about $250,000.
"It could have been so much worse," he said. "Much of the aircraft is carbon-fiber, fiberglass, aluminum framing. It would not have taken much more burning before the helicopter could not have been restored."
VVMC President James Bleicher does not anticipate additional security will be needed. He said, "It was a pretty isolated incident. We have cameras mounted on the side of the hospital and those were effective in recording the incident. There is a fence around the helicopter landing pad."
There were staff members who actually saw the incident at the time Butts was said to have walked through the parking lot and doused the helicopter with gasoline and set it on fire.