Aircraft owned by Tommy Frist in fatal crash

HCA co-founder had leased turbojet to intended buyer

For the second time since 2000, an aircraft owned by Dr. Tommy Frist, co-founder and former chairman of HCA, has been involved in a fatal crash.

A Cessna Citation turbojet crashed yesterday near the Iowa-Minnesota border, killing the pilot and co-pilot and injuring two passengers. The airplane was registered to Tomco II LLC, a Nashville company controlled by Frist.

However, according to HCA spokesman Jeff Prescott, none of the people aboard had any affiliation with Frist or HCA. Frist had leased the aircraft to a Jackson, Miss. company, GNS Holdings LLC, and Prescott said the company was planning to purchase it from Frist.

It was flying from Gulfport, Miss. to Rochester, Minn. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the pilot attempted an emergency landing at a little-used airfield near Cresco, Iowa but overshot the runway and crashed.

A media report in Biloxi said that one of the passengers was traveling to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for treatment. That passenger was said to be in stable condition in an Iowa hospital, while the other survivor's condition was unknown.

In May 2000, healthcare executive Scott Mercy perished along with flight instructor Deborah Millwood while operating an airplane owned by Frist. An investigation later found that Mercy and Millwood may have misunderstood how to operate a fuel switch on the aircraft, and that Mercy turned down an offer from Frist to "fly with him to see that he was properly checked out."

Mercy, who at the time was chairman of both LifePoint Hospitals and America Service Group, was a protégé of Frist whom many in the local healthcare community considered a potential successor to the top job at HCA. He is buried next to the Frist family plot in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

UPDATE 4:36 p.m.:

Barry Canada, president of GNS Holdings LLC, told that one of the passengers is now being cared for at the Mayo Clinic and one at a hospital in Wisconsin. He declined to characterize their conditions.