Thursday, December 07, 2000

Chopper slams hill; cause remains unclear

The Associated Press

        MANCHESTER, Ky. — Eighteen months ago, Dr. Fred Collatz bought a helicopter and learned to fly it in an attempt to reach as many eastern Kentucky patients as possible.

        He and other doctors at Christian Cardiology in Manchester — a practice he founded in 1996 — even bought a second helicopter last month because the first was no longer large enough.

[photo] Investigator Jim Keating of the Federal Aviation Administration looks skyward next to the tail section of a helicopter that crashed Monday in Jackson County.
(Associated Press photos)
| ZOOM |
        That chopper, Gabriel II, crashed sometime Monday in a remote area of Jackson County about five miles northeast of Sand Gap, killing Dr. Collatz, 45, of Manchester and two employees — Kelly Stewart, 31, and Jeremy Harrod, 21, also of Manchester. The three were en route to Jackson, where Dr. Collatz was working to open a clinic.

        Authorities spent much of Tuesday combing rugged terrain with helicopters, searching for the wreckage after Dr. Collatz's family reported him missing late Monday night. The crash site was discovered on a hillside in the Chestnut Flats area at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

        The helicopter disappeared after taking off at 6:30 p.m. EST Monday from Dr. Collatz's residence. The search began about 9 a.m. EST Tuesday.

        It was unclear Wednesday why the helicopter crashed. The bodies were removed from the scene shortly before noon EST Wednesday and taken to the state medical examiner's office for autopsies, a Kentucky State police spokesman said.

        Dr. Collatz's mother, Ann Collatz of Albuquerque, N.M, said he battled drug and alcohol addiction more than 10 years ago and lost his job, his medical license and his wife. A Louisville attorney represented him in his attempt to regain his medical license — a fight that took nearly three years.

        “I'm extremely proud of him,” she said. “I tell him he took on the whole state of Kentucky and won.”

        Dr. Collatz remarried last year.

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