ESTERO, Fla - For the first time we're hearing first hand the conflict at the heart of the 'Medstar mess.'
Dispatchers calling the back up helicopter, confused pilots from Sarasota, wondering why they got called off.
Monday, Estero fire officials continue to defend their decision to call for air transport in that critical crash. This comes after Lee County Public Safety insisted the crash didn't meet air transport requirements because the two patients could get to Lee Memorial hospital by ambulance in under 30 minutes.
In dispatch tapes released to WINK News you hear the call for the Aeromed 5 chopper out of Page Field to go on standby.
Early Friday morning, Estero Fire responded to a collision on Corkscrew Road and US 41 to find two FGCU students trapped in the vehicle.
For 24 minutes, they worked to get the second patient out of the car. In that same time, Aeromed had mechanical problems, the Bayflite Medical Helicopter from Sarasota was dispatched, but quickly cancelled because Estero fire officials thought Collier County Medflight was closer.
"I'm just confused where you got our ETA from," says a Bayflite pilot. Lee County dispatchers respond saying they never got an ETA. The pilot says, "I just figured we had a shorter ETA than Collier."
In the dispatch tape you can hear that they never got an arrival time for the Collier chopper either leaving first responders with no air transport option.
Dispatch: "No ETA from Collier. You can go ahead and cancel, they're going ground transportation, they've extricated the patient."
Lee County Public Safety officials say the failure of a helicopter to arrive did not impact patient care because ground transportation took less than 30 minutes, but former Medstar pilot Arnold McAllister defends Estero's decision.
"We've done flights as short as four miles from Lee Memorial, when there was no traffic at two o'clock in the morning," says McAllister.
It took the patients 16 and 22 minutes to get to Lee Memorial by ambulance. McAllister says by air, that time would be cut in half.
Estero fire also said road construction on US 41 and I-75 played a factor in calling for a chopper and that it has been common in Lee County for many years to use air transport in this scenario.
McAllister says, "This would not be an issue if a helicopter responded. If any helicopter responded. Chief Dickerson and John Wilson are trying to do damage control because the helicopter they said would be there to cover the county didn't respond."
We tried to reach out to Lee County commissioners for their reaction to the debate but did not get a response.
Medstar will be the focus of a meeting tomorrow and FAA representatives will be in town to perform their inspection.