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Man who nearly died in Alexandria medical helicopter crash in dispute with employer

Miles Weske, a flight paramedic, was the most seriously injured in a Sept. 17 helicopter crash in Alexandria. He suffered fractures of his C2 and C3 vertebrae, a liver laceration, multiple broken ribs, a broken sternum, broken femur, broken ankle, collapsed lungs and blood in his lungs. Beth Leipholtz / Forum News Service

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Miles Weske, the North Memorial flight paramedic who almost lost his life in a helicopter crash in Alexandria last year, and his wife, Brooklyn, say they will pursue legal action against North Memorial after changes to his employment status.

The legal action is being pursued after Miles was recently terminated from North Memorial Air Care while still recovering from severe injuries sustained in the company helicopter crash.

"We are going to take legal action," Brooklyn said. "Even if all that comes out of it is this not happening to someone else, we are perfectly happy with that."

Though terminated from Air Care, Brooklyn states that Miles is still employed by North Memorial in the billing department.

According to North Memorial, Miles Weske is still a team member. The Brooklyn Center-based organization, which operates hospitals and clinics as well as ambulance services, had no other comment.

On Sept. 16, 2016, Miles was in the back seat of a North Memorial Air Care helicopter when it crashed north of the Alexandria Municipal Airport at about 2 a.m. He suffered fractures to two vertebrae, a liver laceration, multiple broken ribs, a broken sternum, broken femur, broken ankle, collapsed lungs and blood in his lungs.

After spending two months in the hospital, Miles returned to his home in Nisswa. Though he knew he could not return to work as a flight paramedic, he wanted to remain involved with Air Care.

According to a blog post by Brooklyn, Miles was told in January he had been given a full-time position in which he could work from home and have a flexible schedule so he could attend appointments regarding his injuries from the crash. On Jan. 31, Miles went to Brooklyn Center for a meeting about his ideas regarding quality assurance and quality improvement for North Memorial Air Care. He was sent home with a computer and instructions for accessing documentation.

In February, according to the blog post, Miles began to wonder why he was not being given work related to quality assurance and quality improvement. He called his supervisor and was told he was not needed for that area. He was told his position was to ensure there was information in the boxes on charts that the billing department would need.

The next month, Miles received a letter from the head of human resources at North Memorial Medical Center stating that he had been officially terminated from his position as a flight paramedic with the Air Care division of North Memorial, something Miles' supervisor told him was just part of the process.

Through a series of phone calls in April, Brooklyn's blog states that Miles was told there could be no special treatment for his circumstances. His supervisors allegedly said he would need to arrange paid time off three weeks ahead of time and work normal hours, something that is made difficult by the number of appointments Miles has each day. Miles was told he would not receive special treatment and that if the schedule did not work for him, it was suggested he look into other careers.

According to the The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), it is "unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in State and local government services, public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications. This booklet explains the part of the ADA that prohibits job discrimination. This part of the law is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and State and local civil rights enforcement agencies that work with the Commission."

Two other crew members on the helicopter were treated for less serious injuries and were discharged shortly after the crash.

"We are reminded each day that our lives have changed forever," Brooklyn said. "We have lost the most important thing in our life, which is time at home with our family. Each day is filled with appointments, travel, phone calls, paperwork and constant reminders of the permanent deficits this incident has caused ... And to have lost the support of the superiors of an organization that boasts their dedication to 'taking care of family' is disturbing."

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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