I-95 blocked for 3 hours by medical chopper

Helicopter responding to crash makes precautionary landing on highway

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The northbound lanes of Interstate 95 in St. Johns County were blocked for about three hours early Friday after a medical transport helicopter responding to a crash made a precautionary landing.

Problems began at 4:10 a.m. Friday when a Ford Ranger pickup truck weaved into another lane and was hit by a Lexus before it landed on its side in a ditch, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 

Shands' TraumaOne medical helicopter was brought in to transport the two people in the pickup that firefighters had to cut out of the vehicle. Paramedics got driver Jeff Chandler and passenger Cheryl McCall loaded into the helicopter, but after getting 20 feet into the air, the helicopter pilot reported hearing a large popping sound coming from the aircraft and landed the chopper back on the highway. 

IMAGES: TraumaOne responds to wreck, blocks highway

The two patients, both 58 from Greenwood, S.C., were transported to hospitals by St. Johns County Fire Rescue. Chandler was reported in serious condition at Shands Jacksonville Medical Center and McCall was taken to Baptist Medical Center South with minor injuries.

The driver of the Lexus was not hurt.

Shands said the helicopter was grounded until it could be inspected by a certified mechanic, who found that a plastic trash bag was caught on the blades during landing.

The helicopter was cleared for flight and lifted off around 6:45 a.m. Just before 7 a.m., the Florida Highway Patrol reopened all northbound lanes of I-95 and traffic quickly returned to normal.

TraumaOne was given a full inspection once it arrived back at Shands and was determined to be safe and could resume regular service.

"I compliment the highly trained pilots and crew who are well-prepared for these situations," Shands president and CEO Jim Burkhart said in a statement. "Our first and primary objective is always safety."

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