Fall From Stretcher During Taiwanese SAR Mission

Fall From Stretcher During Taiwanese SAR Mission (NASC AS365N2 NA-104)

On 4 November 2018, a National Airborne Service Corps (NASCAirbus Helicopters AS365N2 Dauphin NA-104, took off from Kaohsiung International Airport at 1715 Local Time.  It was to do a Search and Rescue (SAR) tasking to hoist an unconscious patient from a cargo ship c 2.5 nm offshore.  At about 1726, while hoisting, the patient fell from stretcher into the sea.  They were recovered but pronounced dead on landing.

Taiwan Transportation Safety Board (TTSB), which recently replaced the Aviation Safety Council (ASC) of Taiwan, issued their safety investigation report on 31 October 2019 (only available in full in Chinese). On arrival at the ship the patient was found to be conscious, but not speaking.  The hoisting commenced from the vessel’s superstructure at an altitude of 150 ft ASL.

Start of Hoisting: NASC AS365N2 NA-104 (Credit: TTSB)

Start of Hoisting: NASC AS365N2 NA-104 (Credit: TTSB)

The TTSB explain that during the hoisting the casualty started to wave their arms and the stretcher started to spin.

Hoisting: NASC AS365N2 NA-104: Not Altitude Increase and patient has One Arm Raised (Credit: TTSB)

Hoisting: NASC AS365N2 NA-104: Note Altitude Increase and Patient Has One Arm Raised (Credit: TTSB)

Stills from the hoist video suggest that the aircraft was ascending during the hoist sequence and as the patient waved their arms the stretcher tilted and the patient started to slip head first from the stretcher.

It appears that the aircraft was carrying strops and a rescue basket but not the stainless steel, foldable SAR stretcher that NASC had available at their base.

The stretcher used was one supplied by the ship and images seems to indicated that the patient’s head was elevated on a white pillow positioned on the raised edge of the stretcher, potentially positioned their centre of gravity towards the head of the stretcher (as well as a FOD risk).

Ship's Stretcher (Credit: TTSB)

Ship’s Stretcher (Credit: TTSB)

There may also have been time pressures as the AS365N2 was not equipped with autohover and nighttime was closing in. No safety recommendations were made.

NASC suffered another fatal hoisting accident shortly after.  We’ll publish a summary of that in December.

Safety Resources

The European Safety Promotion Network Rotorcraft (ESPN-R) has a general helicopter safety discussion group on LinkedIn and a Hoist Operation Safety Promotion LinkedIn group.

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