AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas air ambulance service is returning to the air more than a week after one of its flight nurses fell to her death from a helicopter hoist.
STAR Flight program director Casey Ping said its aircraft will resume emergency medical service flights at 7 a.m. Wednesday. However, Ping told reporters Tuesday that the service won’t fly any search and rescue missions for the time being.
STAR Flight grounded its fleet after Kristin McLain fell from a helicopter hoist while rescuing an injured hiker at the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin on April 27.
A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report says McLain was spinning on her hoist at the time of the fall but gave no reason for the accident.
Normal equipment checks were completed by the STAR Flight crew prior to the rescue at the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin, the NTSB report said.
Hoists spin because of the effects of the propeller wash of the helicopter’s main rotor, Ping said. Crews work to mitigate those effects but some spin remains, he said.
McLain, 46, had secured the patient in a carrier and the two of them were hooked up to the hoist and suspended from the EC-145 helicopter when the hoist began to spin, according to the report.
“Once the flight nurse and patient cleared the trees, they began a steady spin. To arrest the spin, the pilot started moving the helicopter forward,” the report said. “The hoist operator stated that the spin had almost stopped, and he noticed that the flight nurse was riding in a position lower than normal.”
McLain then fell from the line, the report said.
McLain, originally from Colorado, was dead at the scene. The report does not say how far she fell.
STAR Flight did not release the name of the rescued woman, who was taken to an Austin hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.
Video and a voice recorder-system from the helicopter were sent to the NTSB as part of the investigation, the agency said.