Whidbey pilot recovering, wife still running

A well-known Whidbey Island helicopter pilot is recovering so well from serious injuries that his wife will likely continue her run for Congress.

Steve Smith, 54, of Clinton, has saved the lives of many islanders through the years doing his job as a helicopter pilot for Airlift Northwest. Auto accident victims, particularly, are routinely airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle if their injuries are severe.

On Sunday, Smith’s own life was hanging by a thread after his helicopter crashed on the mainland, off Highway 2 near Index.

Smith was transported to Harborview with what at the time were considered life-threatening injuries, and his condition was initially listed as “critical” with back and chest injuries.

By Tuesday morning, his condition has improved remarkably, according to Chris Strow, a family friend. Strow, speaking from Harborview, said Smith was in surgery at the time but the outlook was positive.

“The whole process has just been extraordinary,” said Strow. “His injuries were critical but now they’re not life threatening.” Officially, his condition Tuesday was considered “serious, but stable.”

Strow is a friend of Steve Smith and his wife Norma. Strow and Norma Smith were aides to former Congressman Jack Metcalf, a Langley Republican, and this year Norma Smith is running for Metcalf’s old seat, presently held by Democrat Rick Larsen.

Strow now works for the Republican National Committee. He said he expects Norma Smith will continue her campaign for Congress, after taking some time off to help care for her husband. “We’ll all continue to move forward,” he said.

Steve Smith’s helicopter problems started Saturday when he and two nurses flew to the Steven’s Pass area to pick up an accident victim. Due to bad weather, he landed the helicopter for the night near Index, and the patient and nurses left in an ambulance. Smith spent the night in a fire station. The next morning Smith started the helicopter but both engines went out shortly after takeoff. The chopper fell approximately 200 feet, according to news reports.

Hundreds of Whidbey Island residents have been pulling for Smith’s quick recover. Strow said 150 friends had already been through the hospital as of Tuesday.

Dr. Paul Zevaruah, medical program director for Emergency Medical Services in Island County, knows Smith well because of the many accident victims he has flown from Whidbey General Hospital to Harborview in the 17 years Smith has worked for Airlift Northwest.

“We see his friendly face once or twice a week,” Zevaruah said. “He’s always cautious, very careful. He was doing everything right,” even at the time of the accident.

“We’re looking forward to having him back,” Zevaruah said.

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