State paid to fly patient, not baggage in fatal crash
The state office which paid to fly a mother and child from a Mat-Su cabin to Willow for medical care says it didn’t cover any additional baggage costs for their flight that crashed last month, killing the pilot.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the woman and her 2-year-old son were seriously injured but escaped the July 18 crash of a Regal Air flight that had taken off from Willow Lake en route to their home on a lake roughly 60 miles away. The flight was chartered by the Alaska Medicaid Travel Office, which issued a statement late Tuesday on when and why it charters flights.
“Alaska Medicaid will fund travel to the closest provider for services that are considered medically necessary,” state officials wrote. “Basic travel expenses including airfare, lodging, ground transportation, and meal vouchers are covered for Medicaid travel. The Medicaid Travel Office does not fund additional air carrier fees. Travelers are expected to adhere to all air carrier travel restrictions, including baggage restrictions.”
Witnesses said the plane, which the NTSB said was also carrying propane tanks, mortar for building and various other supplies, wasn’t able to take off until its third attempt; 24-year-old pilot Colt Richter died in the de Havilland Beaver after it crashed and burned.
State Health Care Services Director Margaret Brodie said that the travel office budgets for roughly $90 million in travel costs per year, using a mix of state and federal funds.
“If someone needs to stay overnight we'll pay for a hotel room and we'll pay for their meals up to $32 and the cost of their actual transportation,” Brodie said. “If someone flies in they may need a taxi to get to the doctor. So we'll pay for that, but we don't pay any luggage fees whatsoever.”
Regal Air employees declined comment Wednesday on any baggage arrangements during the Willow Lake crash.
Staff at the travel office declined to discuss specific details on why the mother and child had been flown into Willow, but said the office will typically cover the airfare of a parent or guardian accompanying a child who needs treatment.
Heather Hintze contributed information to this story.
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