Use of MedEvac draws state police reprimand

Bureau chief OK'd flying senator to burning home

March 28, 2001|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

State police Superintendent David B. Mitchell sharply reprimanded yesterday the bureau chief who authorized the use of a MedEvac helicopter Monday to fly a state senator to his burning home in Garrett County.

The decision by Lt. Col. David W. Czorapinski, chief of the state police support service bureau, which oversees its aviation division, was "inappropriate," Mitchell said.

"I applaud his effort to help someone in their time of need, but I took him to the woodshed on this," Mitchell said. "There are other ways to help."

Mitchell said the senator's use of the helicopter did not affect emergency medical transportation.

Czorapinski said he thought authorizing the flight was "the right thing to do," adding, "In retrospect, it might not have been, but I made the decision, and I thought it was right."

Sen. John J. Hafer, a Republican who has represented Garrett and Allegany counties since 1991, was in Annapolis about 4 p.m. Monday when he learned that a 2 1/2 -story farmhouse that has been in his family for generations was "engulfed in flames," Czorapinski said.

Mary Beth Pirolozzi, Hafer's district administrator, said she asked a trooper on the State House security detail for help to get the senator home, and the trooper apparently called Czorapinski.

"A call was made to my office, and after listening to the circumstances, I authorized the flight for him," Czorapinski said. "He's in Annapolis, serving the citizens of Maryland, and his house is on fire. How often does that happen?"

Hafer and his wife, Lorene, who had been in Annapolis with him, arrived at Cumberland Airport about 6:30 p.m.

Fire officials said the blaze started in a wall of a second-floor office and caused about $400,000 in damage to the house and its contents, which included family heirlooms and Mrs. Hafer's paintings.

Pirolozzi said firefighters salvaged furniture and some of Mrs. Hafer's landscape paintings from the first floor, but everything on the second floor was destroyed.

Hafer remained in Garrett County yesterday, and it was unclear when he would return to Annapolis. He could not be reached.

Maryland State Police have 12 Dauphine helicopters at eight bases from Salisbury to Cumberland. Ordinarily, they are used to rush accident victims to hospitals as well as for search-and-rescue missions and law enforcement.

Rarely are they used as personnel transports, Mitchell said. "These are precious resources, and we recognize that," he said.

The one-hour round trip to Cumberland probably cost about $600 in fuel, Czorapinski estimated.

Pirolozzi said Hafer asked her yesterday, after the question was raised on a Frostburg radio station, to check on the cost of the flight, but they had not decided whether he would pay for it.

"He's suffered a tremendous loss, and it's sad that the only thing anybody cares about is the flight," she said.

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