June 11, 2013

AirEvac crash kills former chief deputy

Helicopter crashes in Clay County, kills all 3 on board

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The atmosphere was somber and quiet at the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office on Friday as deputies and staff mourned the untimely death of former Chief Deputy Eddy Sizemore.

Sizemore, age 61, was the pilot of an AirEvac Lifeteam helicopter that crashed near the AirEvac landing pad in Clay County on Thursday night in what has been called a “heavy fog.” Sizemore and two other AirEvac crew -- flight nurse Jesse Jones of Pineville and flight paramedic Herman Lee Dobbs of London -- all died in the crash that occurred around 11 p.m. in Manchester, in the parking lot of Paces Creek Elementary School, which is just across the road from the AirEvac helipad. No cause of the crash has yet released but remains under investigation.

According to information from the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, the crew was returning to the Manchester landing base after transferring a patient to Saint Joseph London.

Clay County Coroner Danny Fields said autopsy results should be completed by Saturday afternoon, in which the preliminary cause and manner of death should be released. Finley said the helicopter reportedly burst into flames when it hit the ground and he believed all three crew members died on impact.

Herman Lee Dobbs, age 40, who resided in London, had just received his “wings” from the AirEvac Lifeteam and had his first patient flight on Wednesday before the fatal crash that ended his own life the following day.

Sizemore, a native of Laurel County, was a familiar face in the community, serving in law enforcement for over 25 years. He recently left the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office as Chief Deputy after over two years of service to join the AirEvac medical flight team.

AirEvac is a Missouri-based medical flight company.

“We are devastated by this loss,” said AirEvac president and CEO Seth Myers. “These are members of our family.”

“He left to pursue another one of his passions -- that of flying helicopters -- after a job offer with a medical helicopter service based in Manchester,” said a press release from the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office on Friday morning.

He was an experienced pilot, serving as a crew chief for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, and continuing that passion throughout his professional career and private life. He operated the Sheriff’s Office helicopter and often assisted with marijuana eradication efforts with the Kentucky State Police while working with the Sheriff’s Office under former Sheriff Gene Hollon. During one of those flights, Sizemore and a Kentucky State Police officer narrowly escaped serious injury when Sizemore clipped a power line, causing damage to the helicopter and forcing an emergency landing on south U.S. 25.

“People said they didn’t know how he managed to land that helicopter without getting hurt,” said former Sheriff Gene Hollon. “Eddy was one of the best (pilots) around. I’m very upset about this because he was a good friend.”

Officials with the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) arrived  in Clay County on Friday afternoon to investigate the scene of the crash and to determine the cause.

Sizemore’s untimely passing was a shock to the Laurel community, especially those who had worked with him in law enforcement. Sizemore’s career included an officer with the London City Police and then the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department, from which he retired. But after several years’ break, Sizemore returned to the law enforcement career as Chief Deputy under current Sheriff John Root’s staff.

Even after he left for the AirEvac job, Sizemore kept in touch with his former co-workers.

“Eddy was in and out through here often,” said Deputy and Public Affairs Officer Gilbert Acciardo. “He had lunch with some of the guys last week. He liked to show his flight uniform - he was really proud of that. We are all in shock. This is a great loss for all of us.”

Sheriff John Root expressed his condolences to Sizemore’s family that included three daughters, a son, and several grandchildren during this time of shock and loss.

“There is a special place in God’s Kingdom for Eddy,” Root said in a press release. “Rest well, Brother. You will be greatly missed by the staff of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office.”

Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced in Wednesday’s edition.

CNHI writers John Ross and Rob McDaniel contributed to this story.