Punta Gorda planes made emergency landings, fueled with diesel exhaust fluid

Two medical transport planes had to make emergency landings with patients on board back in May after the company claims a worker at Punta Gorda Airport put the wrong fuel in its planes.

“Did jeopardize the lives of the patients, their families and our crews on board,” said Vice President Dana Carr of Air Trek.

More than a dozen people are fortunate to be alive. Carr said the Punta Gorda-based company is left to deal with the fallout.

“It has a huge impact on us financially,” Carr said. “Also, our staff because now we are going to have to turn away flights that they would normally be flying.”

National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation revealed a lineman at the airport filled two of Air Trek’s larger air ambulances with a potentially deadly mix of jet fuel and diesel exhaust fluid.

NTSB said that decision created crystalline deposits on the filter, causing the engine failure in both planes. That required the emergency landings two hours after takeoff and has made the planes inoperable.

“It is catastrophic damage,” Carr said. “It makes the aircraft beyond economical repair.”

The grounding of Air Trek’s two main air ambulances has forced the company to use this smaller plane, leading to a loss of $7,500 per day in revenue for the last three months and reducing its ability to help people.

Carr said Air Trek has not received any payment from the airport’s insurance company for its losses despite the fact the issue was caused by an airport worker, so the company has filed a notice of intent to sue.

A spokesperson for the airport said it has hired an aviation attorney to work with the insurance company and keep the insurance claim moving forward.

“They are very sincere about doing everything they can to help us,” Carr said. “The log jam is with the airport’s insurance company.”

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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