A Colorado AirLife helicopter pilot, described by sheriff’s deputies as “unstable” and “wobbling,” was arrested earlier this month and charged with drunk driving while allegedly attempting to fly a medical helicopter from his work base in Lincoln County , according to a CBS News Colorado investigation.
AirLife Denver is the HealthONE Hospital System’s emergency medical care and critical care transport service.
Court and police records collected 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 went to work. Breath tests later showed Fouquette’s blood alcohol level was 0.126, above Colorado’s legal standard of 0.08 for drinking and driving.
According to arrest records, Fouquette was flying AirLife at the time of the stop, was in full flight uniform when he was arrested, and informed deputies he was en route to his base in Hugo, Colorado. AirLife is based in a rural hospital in Hugo.
Fouquette’s attorney, Chris Halsor, released a written statement to CBS News Colorado, saying Fouquette “fully cooperated with the investigation and took the matter seriously.” He has since resigned his position.”
AirLife flies critically ill patients to various hospitals throughout Colorado. Its pilots are provided and supervised by a company called Air Methods, based in Greenwood Village.
An Air Methods spokesman said the last day Fouquette flew was January 6, the day before his arrest. The company said it would not provide any additional information because Fouquette is no longer employed by Air Methods. In a follow-up statement, Air Methods said it conducts random alcohol testing of its employees.
“Air Methods not only complies with all federal requirements and follows a drug and alcohol program similar to that enforced by commercial airlines, but also conducts random testing at a higher rate than Department of Transportation regulations require,” 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 stopped before arriving at work, Coffman said: “We have safety precautions in place to help crew members assess personal preparedness, recognize potentially dangerous situations and report them effectively , to prevent any unsafe flight conditions.”
Sheriff’s office documents show that a deputy was on a routine patrol at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 when he spotted a car on Highway 86 behind him. crossed the double yellow center line to overtake two other vehicles and was driving 70 mph in a 55 mph zone.
The MP said when Fouquette was pulled over and his window rolled down, there was a smell of “a strong unknown alcoholic beverage”. […] Aaron was in a rescue suit […] said he was going to his base in Hugo, Colorado,” the rep wrote.
He said that when Fouquette got out of his car, he was “unstable, rocking back and forth as soon as he got up”.
After MPs said he failed roadside sobriety tests, Fouquette was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI, speeding and careless driving. He was released the next day on $1,000 bail, according to court records. He is scheduled to appear in court again on February 9.
Federal records show that Fouquette is certified as a helicopter pilot and a single-engine airplane pilot.
Stephanie Sullivan, a spokeswoman for HealthONE, sent the following statement to CBS News Colorado:
“At AirLife Denver, the safety of our patients and colleagues is our top priority. AirLife Denver is aware of the situation with Mr. Fouquette. AirLife Denver hires Air Methods to operate helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Mr. Fouqette was an Air Methods pilot assigned to operate helicopters. His final day of flying with AirLife Denver was January 6, 2023. In AirLife Denver’s 40 years of service in a multi-state service area, the safety of our patients, colleagues and community has been our number one priority. During that time, we’ve provided industry-leading care to over 65,000 critically ill or injured patients across 4.5 million miles of transportation. We will continue to ensure that the highest quality medical care is provided in the safest manner. We are extremely grateful to our flight crew and care teams who are providing this lifesaving care throughout the Rocky Mountain region.”
A 2009 news article profiling Fouquette reported that 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.