One injured when helicopter carrying donated heart crashes on top of Keck Hospital of USC

Keck Hospital at USC
(Ruben Vives/ Los Angeles Times)

A pilot was hospitalized with minor injuries Friday afternoon after a helicopter crashed near the helipad on top of Keck Hospital of USC, fire officials said.

Two people onboard said they had no medical complaints and declined treatment from paramedics, said Margaret Stewart, a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles Fire Department.

In a statement, officials with Keck Hospital of USC said that nobody around or inside the hospital was injured and that patient care was not disrupted. Norfolk Street between Soto Street and San Pablo Street is closed as officials investigate.


“The aircraft is stable on its side, on the helipad,” LAFD said in a news alert at 3:18 p.m. Friday. “There does not appear to be a significant fuel leak.”

The aircraft, a private eight-seat helicopter ambulance registered to Prime Healthcare Air Transportation of Ontario, was carrying a donated heart to the hospital. The organ was undamaged and given to hospital staff at the scene, LAFD officials said.

Just a couple of hours after the crash, the heart was being transplanted into a patient, said Meg Aldrich, a spokeswoman for Keck Hospital of USC.

“It’s actually an amazing story,” she said.

By about 5:15 p.m., two firetrucks with their lights on were still parked outside the Keck hospital.

Javier Chamorro, 59, of Huntington Park was standing outside the hospital waiting for his son to pick him up. He said he was on the second floor inside the building about to do a breathing exercise when he heard a loud noise.

“The building shook,” he said. “I thought it was an earthquake.”

Chamorro said that 15 minutes later, he learned from a hospital employee that the loud noise and shaking was from a helicopter that had crashed on the building’s helipad.


Chamorro said he was scared.

Terry Williams, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency will investigate the crash and is just beginning to gather information about what happened. The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.