Monroe County’s newest Trauma Star air ambulance helicopter passed the Federal Administration Aviation inspection Friday and will go into service on Monday, Aug. 28., at 8 a.m.
This brings the Trauma Star fleet to three Sikorsky helicopters. Two of the life-saving helicopters will be in service around-the-clock, with one operation based at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office hangar in Marathon and one based at a new helipad at the Lower Keys Medical Center. The third helicopter will be used as a backup when the primary helicopters are out of service for maintenance.
The newest helicopter arrived in Marathon on Aug. 17. Crews have been spending the past few weeks outfitting the helicopter with safety equipment, medical supplies and mechanics have been working on it to make sure everything is in working order and will pass the inspection. New locks were even installed.
Last week, five Monroe County Fire Rescue paramedics were tested for flight medic certification. It requires passing four written exams and practical tests using specialized equipment in both a facility-to-facility scenario and a trauma scenario in the field.
In January, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners approved purchasing a third Sikorsky helicopter for the life-saving air ambulance program, which is operated by Monroe County Fire Rescue that provides the medical crews and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office that provides the pilots and maintenance.
The County bought the third helicopter for the Trauma Star program following complaints that County residents were being left with bills of tens of thousands of dollars for transportation on the private air ambulance company that was operating out of the Lower Keys Medical Center. County residents’ insurance companies are billed for transportation on Trauma Star, but County residents do not pay any out-of-pocket expenses.
The private company no longer operates in the Florida Keys. Trauma Star has been operating two helicopters round-the-clock since May. This year, Trauma Star already has transported 560 patients.
The newest helicopter’s tail number is N911LK, with the LK standing for Lower Keys. It joins N911FK, which stands for Florida Keys, and N911RR, which stands for Rick Roth, Monroe County’s former Sheriff.