UNMC security: The day the helicopter crashed

Jan. 20, 1988, was the day the helicopter crashed at the med center. UNMC security officer John Ingraham had just gotten home. He received a page. He remembers, it was just after 4. An Associated Press report from the next day said it was just after 5.

When he got back to campus, the “ship” was still burning. It was still in flames.

“One of the rotors flew like 90 feet,” he said.

Luckily, everyone had gotten out OK.

It was a cold day. Such a cold day.

The helicopter was taking off to make room for another helicopter bringing someone in. It started to lift off, but couldn’t level itself. The cabin part got too high, almost vertical. The tail hit something. The pilot struggled for control.

The company that owned the chopper would later offer the initial theory that an ice crystal in the hydraulic system was the likely cause.

“In the movies when the helicopter hits it explodes in a big fireball,” Ingraham said. Not so. “It started to burn kind of small, but because it was jet fuel, it burned very hot.”

The pilot was bleeding from his head, but he got out. The flight nurse was stuck. An administrator rushed in, and cut the tangled, stuck seat belt with a knife. They wrestled something heavy off of the nurse’s foot. He hopped to safety.

Pilot and nurse were treated and released.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board had to investigate the crash. But it would be a couple days before they could get there, Ingraham recalled.

Security had to stand sentinel over the crash site.

“We had to stay out there for two days, all night, to go guard it make sure nobody tried to make off with pieces or contaminate the scene,” Ingraham said.

They took turns sitting in a vehicle, to warm up.

They were freezing. Time had frozen. It seemed like the clock had stopped moving hours ago.

They looked out at the charred, scattered aircraft carcass.

“Cold,” Ingraham said. “It was just bitter, bitter cold.”

The Dagefordes’ ‘extreme green, game-changing’ house

“I cooled my house this summer for the price of a Big Mac,” Karen Dageforde said.

That gets your attention right?

It should. And considering the house Karen Dageforde cooled was a 2,869-square foot  ranch-style house on an acreage northwest of Omaha, it should really get your attention.

Oh, and actually it cost a less than a Big Mac to cool the house.

Darren and Karen Dageforde outside their “extreme green” home, northwest of Omaha.

Presently Big Mac’s go for a little more than $4 in the U.S. It cost Karen Dageforde and her husband, Darren Dageforde, director of utilities in UNMC Facilities, Management and Planning, $2.68 to cool their home. So really it was more like the cost of a small shake.

An efficient amalgamation  

As the Dagefordes built their home a few years back, they aimed to consolidate as many home energy efficiency measures as they could under one roof just to see how low they could take their energy consumption levels.

“We really don’t think it’s fair that our generation uses all of the earth’s natural resources and energy and leaves nothing for those who come after us,” said Darren Dageforde, who is a member of the UNMC LiveGreen team.

So how do they do it?

On the south side of their roof, the Dagefordes installed large solar panels, which generate gobs of electricity. How much electricity? Enough that many months, they actually produce more than they use, and that which they don’t use is put into the Omaha Public Power District system. So get this, rather than electric bills, the Dagefordes get credits from the power company.

“In that regard, OPPD views us exactly the way they do a coal plant or any other facility that generates energy,” Darren Dageforde said.

Power workers need to be sure to pull these switches on the side of the Dagefordes’ house lest they be shocked by the energy coming from the house. The combined result of the various energy efficiency measures in the Dageforde house is that many months, they generate more energy than they use.

The Dagefordes have switches on the side of their house that power workers must turn off before they do work on a nearby lines so that they can cut off the energy being put back in the system from the Dageforde house.

“If they forgot to do that, they could get shocked,” Darren Dageforde said.

Going underground

About 60 feet to the north of the Dageforde house is a large tube that sticks four feet out of the ground. That is the “fresh air intake” on the Dageforde heating and air-conditioning system.

A small bathroom fan in their basement sucks air into the tube, which runs 13 feet below ground for a distance of 160 feet before it enters the home. When the air finally comes into the house, it has been thermally conditioned to about 60 degrees.

This pipe is the fresh air intake of the Dagefordes’ heating and air conditioning system. It runs 13 feet below the ground and then into the house. The ground temperature 13-feet down remains the same year round. So regardless of the weather outside, the air comes into the Dageforde house at the same temperature.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees out or negative 15, it stays the same temp at that level, so the air that comes into our house is always 60 degrees,” Darren Dageforde said.

The same principle is used in the radiant heating and cooling system that runs in the concrete floors of the Dageforde house. Radiant fluid is cycled through the floor and then out to geothermal wells that run 200-feet below the ground and back again to bring the 55-degree liquid into the floor. This helps keep house temperature cool throughout the summer. All it takes is a small circulating pump to run the system, which takes a negligible amount of energy.

The fluid for the radiant system is heated through the use of an energy efficient heat pump to raise the temperature to 75 degrees for warming floors in the winter.  The amount of energy it takes to raise geothermal well water from 55 to 75 degrees also is small.

About those concrete floors

All floors and walls in the Dageforde home are made of concrete, which prevents air infiltration – a major cause of energy costs in typical homes.

“The concrete creates a solid seal,” Darren Dageforde said.

The concrete also is a huge thermal mass storage tank.  The house can withstand extreme outside temperatures for several days without changing the temperature inside the home.

Karen Dageforde ties down radiant heating/cooling tube to the floor before concrete was poured during construction of the house.

Passive solar

The window overhangs in the Dageforde house were designed such that in the summer, when the sun sits high and produces the most heat, its rays are blocked and don’t penetrate into the house.  Conversely, in the winter and fall, when the sun sits a little lower in the sky, more of its rays are let into the house, which means more natural warm air is created in the house.

This design as is known as “passive solar.”

Dageforde tells how his “passive solar” windows work. In essence, they are built to reduce amount of sun that gets into the house in the summer and increase the sun exposure in the house in colder months.

It must cost a fortune right? Right?

Aside from maximum efficiency, the Dagefordes also aimed to build their home in an affordable way. It’s no use in doing this, they said, if no one else could afford to replicate it.

The cost of building their “extreme green” home was very comparable to the cost of conventional build.

“We did this right at market value [builders’ standard cost per square foot for a conventional home], so cost isn’t really a deterrent,” Darren Dageforde said.

“The only thing that prevents more people from doing this is knowledge. And now our job is to get that out there.”

See a fact sheet for the Dageforde home.

 Big implications

Darren Dageforde calls the design a “game changer.”

“If this type of construction was adopted on a larger scale, it could flip the energy situation in this country on its head,” he said.

Learn more

The Dagefordes have given tours of the home to students and others.

Contact Darren Dageforde at 402-559-5278 to inquire about a tour or to learn more about the house.

UNMC is all over China

You just never know where that UNMC secondary icon will show up. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Excellent use of a proper branding term. Ten points for Gryffindor!)


Yes, that’s the Great Wall in the background. And the Forbidden City:

OK, I’m sure you’ve guessed that I planted that backpack. Maybe our icon isn’t all over China. Our reputation, however, definitely is growing. And UNMC leaders are all over the potential for the growth of our partnerships in China.

From left: Beverly Maurer; Chancellor Harold M. Maurer; Dehua Yu, president, Yangpu Hospital of Tongji University in Shanghai; and Assistant Vice Chancellor Jialin Zheng, director of UNMC’s Asia-Pacific Rim Development Program.

Relationships are an important part of that. And it’s hard to capture friendship in a photo or a blog post.

As hard as it is to describe, though, it can be easy to recognize. I witnessed it almost immediately upon arriving in Beijing on a recent trip (my first to China). Keith Swarts greeted Yanli Hao, the young woman who was at the airport to meet us, like an old friend. In fact, Keith greeted nearly everyone we dealt with during the two-week trip like an old friend.

Keith and his wife, Jayme Nekuda of UNMC’s wellness programs, and Professor Qingyong Ma of Xi’an Jiaotong University.

That’s what they are. Friends.

Yong Zhao, director of UNMC’s Beijing office; his assistant, Yanli Hao; Keith Swarts; and Fred Salzinger, who also was in China on business for UNMC.

Sometimes Keith had so many friends to talk to that it he seemed like a blur of constant motion.

(Or I have poor photography skills.)

Many of those friends have visited UNMC to do research or study.  And they take back to China stories of UNMC and its friendly people.

Three Shanghai family medicine doctors who were here earlier this year spoke glowingly of their experience at UNMC at the opening ceremony of the Third Annual Shanghai Symposium on Sino-U.S. Family Medicine at Tongji University. They said they were especially moved by the way patients are treated in U.S. clinics, with uninterrupted one-on-one visits with a doctor.

Zhang Aihua, Samuel Liang Xinglun and Mary Wang Jingli visited UNMC this year.

“In two weeks, I learned a great deal … about the humanistic care of American patients,” Mary said.

The friendship and conversation went on long after each day’s speeches and lessons were finished.

From left: Dongsheng Xu, M.D., executive director of UNMC’s Shanghai office and a professor at Tongji University; Jeffrey Harrison, M.D., director of UNMC’s Family Medicine Residency Program; and Samuel Liang Xinglun, M.D.

I made a lot of new friends, too ….

Don’t worry, those aren’t the real — and very fragile — Terracotta Warriors.

And we had a little fun along the way.

Lost in translation: The photographer didn’t understand that we wanted the leaning tower behind us in the picture. From left: Paul Paulman, Audrey Paulman, Kent Zhao, Jeffrey Harrison, yours truly, Marilyn Sitorius, and Mike Sitorius.

We even celebrated the birthday of Jialin Zheng, M.D., director of UNMC’s Asia-Pacific Rim Development Program. October is a busy month for UNMC’s programs in China, so Jialin has celebrated there — away from his family — for several years in a row.

He said it’s tradition in China to eat noodles to help bring good luck and a long life to the one marking a birthday. Jialin taught me how to eat noodles with chopsticks but I think I contributed more noodles to the floor than to his long life.

Fortunately, this photo was taken before I dropped noodles all over.

Maybe I should have tried Jayme’s noodle technique:

We also learned about a beautiful ….

and colorful country …

where UNMC has lots of friends.