Sunday, September 09, 2012

AGL Action Rescue Helicopter: Mid-air fire on chopper


 AUTHORITIES have praised the quick thinking of AGL Action Rescue Helicopter crew who protected their patient and safely landed the helicopter after the drama on Friday night.

The helicopter was transporting an elderly man from Toowoomba Base Hospital to Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital at 8.20pm when the fire broke out.

Flying over Brisbane's CBD, crew members considered landing the helicopter on a nearby football field but with the hospital in sight, decided to press on.

Pilot Al Carsons, who has more than 20 years' experience, focused on safely landing the helicopter while his crew worked to protect their patient and contain the fire.

Action Rescue chief executive Dave Donaldson said although the helicopter was fitted with fire extinguishers, using them in a confined space was dangerous as they could create toxic fumes.

"As soon as the helicopter landed, crew chief Tony Preston and flight doctor Andy Haggerty pulled the smouldering equipment from the back of the aircraft, taking it as far from the helicopter as possible," Mr Donaldson said.

Paramedic Donna Williams was also on board.

The patient suffered a small burn to his lower leg but was sedated at the time and unaware of the incident.

The helicopter suffered smoke damage and was inspected by AGL Action Rescue Helicopter engineers, a CASA safety officer and cleared by Queensland Health before it was safely flown back to the Maroochydore Hangar yesterday morning.

"A fire in an aircraft is a very serious incident and the crew has done an amazing job managing the situation, dealing with the risks and protecting the patient," Mr Donaldson said.

The equipment at the centre of the drama - a Niki T34L syringe pump - is used to automatically control the amount of drugs given to the patient.

"We've done a thorough check of the aircraft, it wasn't damaged in any way and we are now fully operational with back-up medical equipment providing full capabilities," Mr Donaldson said.

"The piece of equipment which caught alight has been removed from all Queensland aeromedical aircraft pending an investigation into the exact cause of the fire."

Mr Donaldson said officials were now working with the equipment manufacturers and investigating all electrical connections.

"I think the ramifications are to make sure all other operators know what happened and as soon as we know the details we will send that information out to them." The pump in question had been in use on the helicopter for less than 12 months.

Mr Donaldson said mid-air fire drills were part of normal training and helicopter crews were regularly tested.


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