Laramie is once again without a “life flight” company in town after Medical Air Rescue Company pulled both its helicopter and airplane from the city last month.
Patrick Currie, MARC’s regional clinical educator and Laramie base manager, told the Laramie Boomerang MARC’s majority shareholder decided to leave the helicopter business entirely.
The minority shareholder and CEO of the company, Monty Renfro, wants MARC “to get back into Laramie, whether it be fixed-wing or helicopter.”
“They’re actively pursuing routes and looking for investors to help with that,” Currie said.
MARC arrived in Laramie in June with a fixed-wing airplane, flying patients out of Laramie Regional Airport to other hospitals in the area as needed.
Seeing a need for even quicker transport, the company brought a helicopter to town at the end of October.
Currie told the Laramie Boomerang in October MARC hoped to use the helicopter to further assist first responders or search-and-rescue efforts in more rural areas.
About a week after bringing the helicopter to town, the company pulled out of Laramie entirely.
In addition to the shareholder shakeups, Currie said costs associated with Laramie’s infamous weather was partly the reason.
“You’re going to need a special aircraft in Laramie with the weather, which is kind of why you guys have never had one before,” Currie said. “All the bigger companies aren’t willing to invest in that with the low population density.”
In addition to expensive equipment needed to handle Laramie’s weather, Currie said staffing is another financial constraint.
“You need four pilots, a mechanic, 12 crew members; it’s very expensive to run a helicopter service,” he said. “Those are the top-tier people, too. … You need flight nurses and flight paramedics, so it’s quite costly.”
Laramie Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services division chief Michael Hotchkiss told the Boomerang last week without MARC in town, EMS crews must wait for helicopters out of Cheyenne, Casper, Rawlins or even Loveland, Colorado to fly Laramie’s patients in need of critical care to hospitals along the Front Range of Colorado.
Currie said there are other life flight companies considering setting up in Laramie, although they’re facing similar concerns with the weather and other operating costs.
“Hopefully the Laramie community will have their own flight service full time again here within the next couple of months,” he said.
MARC is based out of Rapid City, South Dakota, with some operations in parts of Nebraska as well.