Sunday, December 25, 2011

Australia: Air paramedic dies during rescue operation after winch line was cut

Helicopter paramedic Mick Wilson was a 15-year veteran who won a bravery award for his work. 

Carrington Falls, near Robertson, where the death of a NSW Ambulance paramedic Mick Wilson occured during a search operation in the Southern Highlands. 

The helicopter rescue. 
Photo: Sylvia Liber

THE tragic details of how a helicopter paramedic died in a rescue operation began to emerge last night, with revelations that the winch line being used had to be cut.

Mick Wilson, a 15-year veteran who won a bravery award for his work, was killed trying to reach an injured canyoner at Carrington Falls in the Kangaroo Valley on Saturday evening.

Superintendent Gary Worboys said: "At about 8.30pm on their last retrieval something has occurred at the bottom of the line which has necessitated an action inside the helicopter, cutting that winch line and releasing it from the helicopter.

"As a result of that the ambulance paramedic received injuries and later died at that location near Carrington Falls.

"I'm thinking it's not something to do with the helicopter, I'm thinking it's about the environment. It was a difficult, complex retrieval."

The rescue began when a Chatswood man used his emergency distress beacon to contact emergency services after his friend, who was visiting from overseas, was injured during a canyoning trip.

Mr Wilson, 41, was one of two highly trained special casualty access team paramedics on an Ambulance Service of NSW helicopter that was called to the rescue.

Supt Worboys said the Chatswood man was retrieved safely, then something went wrong. He could not say if Mr Wilson fell, because a full investigation was under way.

Rescue teams decided another winch operation was too dangerous and the injured man and Mr Wilson's body remained in the canyon overnight. The canyoner was rescued yesterday morning and taken to hospital in a stable condition.

It is believed to be the first time in more than 30 years that a NSW paramedic has been killed on duty. The Carrington Falls is a popular walk with a spectacular 90m abseil to secluded pools.

Mr Wilson spent more than 15 years with the ambulance service and in 2008 was one of six officers awarded a bravery award for rescuing a woman crushed by rocks in Wombeyan Caves in May that year.

The Ambulance Service offered its condolences and support to Mr Wilson's wife and children, but did not give other details of his family.

Medical Retrieval Services spokesman Ron Manning said: "The death is a terrible tragedy for the family and the Ambulance Service of NSW."

A team of three investigators will interview the helicopter crew, retrieve flight data from the helicopter, inspect the helicopter and gather operational and training records.

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