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Medical Copter Crashes Elicit New Rules

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday urged the government to impose stricter controls on emergency helicopter operators, including requiring the use of autopilots, night-vision systems and flight data recorders in an industry that suffered a record number of fatalities last year.

CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports that the NTSB says there is too much pressure on medical helicopter operators to move quickly in bad conditions.

Last year was the deadliest year yet for emergency medical helicopters with 12 accidents and 29 fatalities. Six were killed in a collision in Flagstaff, Ariz. involving two medical choppers.

"You could see one coming, you know, directly overhead and one coming like from underneath," said Sekourteny West, who witnessed the collision.

In light of the accidents, the NTSB is issuing 19 safety recommendations, including more bad weather training in simulators for pilots and mandatory night vision imaging systems in every cockpit.

They even suggest paying higher Medicare reimbursement rates to chopper pilots who meet higher safety standards.

Each year 400 thousand patients and organs are transported safely by helicopter. The FAA says it will consider the NTSB's recommendations as it makes new rules for medical choppers, which are due out early next year.