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Colorado AirLife helicopter pilot headed to work arrested, charged with DUI

AirLife helicopter pilot headed to work arrested, charged with DUI
AirLife helicopter pilot headed to work arrested, charged with DUI 02:18

A Colorado AirLife helicopter pilot, described by sheriff's deputies as "unsteady" and "wobbling," was arrested earlier this month and charged with DUI as he was headed to apparently fly a medical helicopter from his work base in Lincoln County, according to a CBS News Colorado Investigation.

AirLife Denver is the emergency medical care and critical care transport service of the HealthONE system of hospitals.

Court and police records gathered by CBS News Colorado show that the Elbert County Sheriff's Office stopped Aaron Fouquette, 40, on the night of Jan. 7 as the veteran pilot was headed to work. Breath tests later showed Fouquette's blood alcohol level was .126, above Colorado's legal standard of .08 for driving under the influence.

Elbert County Sheriff's Office  

Fouquette was flying for AirLife at the time of the stop according to arrest documents, was in full flight uniform when he was arrested and told deputies he was on his way to his base in Hugo, Colorado. AirLife has a base at a rural hospital in Hugo.

Fouquette's lawyer, Chris Halsor, released a written statement to CBS News Colorado saying Fouquette "fully cooperated with the investigation and is taking the matter seriously. He has since resigned his position."

AirLife flies critically ill patients around Colorado to various hospitals. Its pilots are provided and overseen by a company called Air Methods, which is based in Greenwood Village.

A spokesperson for Air Methods said that the last day Fouquette flew was Jan. 6, the day before he was arrested. The company said it would not provide any additional information since Fouquette no longer was employed by Air Methods. In a follow-up statement, Air Methods said it conducts random alcohol testing of its employees.

"In addition to meeting all federal requirements and following a drug and alcohol program similar to the one enforced by commercial airlines, Air Methods performs random testing at a higher rate than what is required by Department of Transportation regulations," wrote Denisse Coffman, Air Methods vice president of corporate communications.

She said the company is focused on the safety of its crew members and patients. When asked what would have happened if he had not been pulled over prior to showing up for work, Coffman said, "we have safeguards in place to help crew members assess personal readiness, identify potentially dangerous situations and be able to report them effectively to prevent any unsafe flying conditions."

Sheriff's office documents say a deputy was on routine patrol at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 when he spotted a car behind him on Highway 86. The deputy let the car pass and said the vehicle then crossed over the center yellow line while weaving, crossed the double yellow center line to pass two other vehicles and drove 70 mph in a 55 mph zone.

The deputy said when Fouquette was stopped and rolled down his window, there was the smell of "a strong unknown alcoholic beverage [...] Aaron was in a flight for life suit [...] said he was going to his base in Hugo, Colorado," wrote the deputy.

He said when Fouquette got out of his car, he was "unsteady by wobbling back and forth as soon as he stood up."

After deputies said he failed roadside sobriety tests, Fouquette was arrested and jailed for suspected DUI, speeding and careless driving. He was released the next day on a $1,000 bond, according to court records. He is due to appear in court again Feb. 9.

Federal records show Fouquette is certified as a helicopter pilot and single-engine airplane pilot.

Stephanie Sullivan, a spokesperson for HealthONE, sent CBS News Colorado the following statement:

"At AirLife Denver, our highest priority is the safety and security of our patients and colleagues. AirLife Denver is aware of the situation involving Mr. Fouquette. AirLife Denver contracts with Air Methods to operate helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Mr. Fouqette was a pilot employed by Air Methods who had been assigned to operate helicopters. His last day flying with AirLife Denver was Jan. 6, 2023. Over AirLife Denver's 40 years of service across a multi-state service area, the safety of our patients, colleagues, and the community have been paramount. During that time, we've provided industry-leading care for over 65,000 critically ill or injured patients across 4.5 million transport miles. We will continue to ensure the highest quality medical care is provided in the safest manner possible. We are extraordinarily grateful for our flight crews and care teams who provide this life-saving care to the entire Rocky Mountain region."

A 2009 news article profiling Fouquette reported he had 36 months of combat experience during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Fouquette's LinkedIn profile describes him as a "senior Army aviator" with more than 20 years of military experience.

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