How not to load someone in a helicopter
The following link has some text and a video clip from a recent rescue in the Fraser Valley.
As you can see they are performing what we call a hover stretcher load, which I wrote about today.
Now I know some of these guys, and if they read this I want them to know that any criticism I post here is in the interest of safety and is exactly what I would point out to them in person if I was involved in a task review. I know that I may not have all of the information on the exact nature of the rescue, but from what I can tell there are several problems with the way this was carried out. Some of these issues may have been due to the rushed nature of the rescue.
- RCMP members are not wearing proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). At a minimum while working around helicopters they should be wearing hearing and eye protection. Helmets are recommended. In addition, they’re on a river bank, and WCB would require them to be wearing PFDs. The SAR members in this case are wearing helmets, but no hearing or eye protection.
- Subject was loaded feet first.
- This is wrong, and terrifying for the subject,
- This is unsafe as the center of gravity is dangerously close to the edge of the outside of the machine.
- with the head outside the machine the attendant in the helicopter cannot monitor vitals, or assist in any way if the subject becomes distressed.
- The rear door of this helicopter model is a slider; it is acceptable to remain on during flight
- looks like the seats are difficult to remove from this helicopter; possibly another machine should have been used.
|SAR members practice loading a stretcher across the back seat of an AS 350 B|
A better way to this is as follows:
- a SAR member crouches in the back seat of the machine to receive the stretcher.
- This SAR member is wearing a harness and is attached to the helicopter using a short lanyard.
- doors off facilitates easy access, on one side of the machine
- with the seats out, it’s easy to place and strap in the stretcher
- you can use build-in seat belts or cords for this
- Attendant can perform first aid in this position and monitor vitals
- Attendant can offer comfort and support to the subject.
|Stretcher secured to helicopter using seat belts at a minimum.|
Even better is to use a machine outfitted with a stretcher kit which is installed where the front seat is. This allows doors-on flight. We used this rig during the Olympics.
|Note subject’s head is inside the helicopter.|
On asking around I’ve learned some more information about this rescue.
It seems that the SAR managers had a helicopter rescue team standing by, ready to retrieve the subject; properly equipped and trained. The RCMP may have been acting outside of the ICS chain of command, or in SAR parlance, acting as Cowboys.
In some ways, this incident is beginning to sound like the one described in this article, where a helicopter pilot decided to take part of the rescue into his own hands, with tragic results.
One final reason why this video concerns me, and one backed up by a helicopter pilot I know; the RCMP machine seems to take off very slowly. There are a lot of variables that affect how a helicopter performs; air temperature, fuel on board, crew and cargo weight. In a briefing on this machine I attended I was told that it was heavily loaded with communications equipment including microwave transmitters to facilitate broadcast of live video back to base, and a very bright spotlight.
It seems to me that this machine can barely take off from the river. It climbs very slowly, and I know any time I have been in a similar situation, the pilot makes haste to get clear of the trees so he can start moving forward and get some more lift. I certainly hope this was not the case.