New air medical transport service opens in Horry County

One of the largest air medical providers in the country now has a base in Horry County.

Air Methods Incorporated, also called LifeNet, opened its doors to the public Monday to show what the company does and why it has signed a contract to make the Horry County Airport in Conway its newest site.

"This seemed like a great location. Conway is kind of the center of the county so to speak, so it made it easy to function here and reach all the parts of the county in a timely fashion," said Air Method regional vice president, Chip Sovick.

Horry County joins Air Methods' more than 300 other bases in 48 states. The company has five other bases around South Carolina. They'll have a 16-person crew in Conway, including pilots, paramedics, nurses and a mechanic.

The company claims to be the most experienced air medical operator in the country and its local flight crew says quick response and patient care are their goals.

"Whether it be in EMS fire folks calling us to pick someone up at a bad car wreck or whether it be for the hospitals calling to have us come do our transports for them," said flight paramedic Keith Dean.

Though there is some danger in what they do, Dean says one key to their job is to keep a cool head.

"It's just a gift that i've had for as long as I've been in the business. I've just been able to keep my head and keep focused on what I have, the task at hand," Dean said. "Focused on what you're doing, but not too focused that the surroundings around you get left out as well."

A medical chopper crashed in Georgetown County in 2009, killing all three people on board. Dean says that kind of risk goes along with the job.

"I love it. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing."