AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A nurse died after falling from a hoist on a medical helicopter while rescuing a woman from a hiking trail in Austin, emergency personnel said Tuesday.
Kristin McLain, 46, became detached from the hoist Monday night as the rescued hiker was lifted to the EC-145 helicopter from the Barton Creek Greenbelt where she had taken a fall, according to a STAR Flight news release.
McLain died at the scene. STAR Flight did not release any information about why or how far she fell. The company uses four helicopters for rescues and emergency transport in Travis County.
Lisa Block, a spokeswoman for Travis County Emergency Services, had few details on the circumstances of McLain’s death. She said the hoist is an arm that extends off the helicopter that allows rescuers to direct a carrier to a patient and that “typically a rescuer will go with that carrier.”
The helicopters usually carry three emergency personnel — a pilot, a hoist operator and a nurse or other rescuer, Block said. The nurse typically would use a harness system, she said.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident. The Associated Press has left a message with the NTSB seeking comment.
“Safety comes first with STAR Flight,” Block said. “So of course we will be looking at everything that happened, all of our equipment, the processes to see what needs to be improved. That will also be part of the investigation. Right now our thoughts are with the family and her friends.”
Block said the company has voluntarily ceased operations but could not say how long the fleet would be grounded.
STAR Flight did not identify the rescued woman but said she was taken to University Medical Center-Brackenridge in Austin with injuries that were not life-threatening. Barton Creek Greenbelt has trails for biking, running, rock climbing, swimming and hiking.
Weather conditions at about the time of the rescue were clear, with temperatures in the mid-70s and winds of less than 5 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
McLain had worked for STAR Flight for seven years, was single and originally from Colorado, Block said.
“A lot of times STAR Flight will go to community groups and talk about what they do. She was always smiling and telling people about what she does. She was very passionate about her job,” Block said.
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