08 January 2009

Guardian Angels At Work:

There is still a little fog in the area, but the freezing rain and drizzle are now East of us. The helicopter is still in the hangar because with the low ceilings in the area I'm goin' nowhere... why even push it out?
Still, we get flight requests. I check our weather and although it looks better, two airports within 50 miles of us are reporting 600 foot ceilings with 1-1/2 miles visibility.
The AWOS at the little airport where we're based is reporting VFR conditions... ceilings of 1100 feet and visibility 8 miles. Conditions are improving, but the forecast is for possible snow showers after midnight. I turn down the flight but tell our dispatchers about the improving weather.

Half an hour later I hear a siren getting louder and louder. I step out our front door just in time to see a Squad Car zoom by going 'way fast. I watch as he disappears in the distance, then hear another siren coming. This time it's a fire truck headed the same direction.
Then, the phone rings...
"Can you take a standby for an MVA between you and C-Ville?"
(Wow! That flight will take all of 5 minutes!)
"Let me check." I look at radar and dial up our AWOS on the phone...
"Yep, we'll accept the standby. We'll push the aircraft out now."

My crew has gone to bed. Over the intercom I inform them we're on standby and need to push the aircraft out of the hangar. All hands need to be watching as we push out to insure I don't run aircraft extremities into walls or doors. We've no sooner finished situating the helicopter on the pad and bringing the tug back into the hangar when the telephone rings again...
"Your flight is a go."

We quickly walk to the aircraft and along with my nurse and paramedic we check to insure shorelines are disconnected, gas cap and all cowlings are secure. I take my seat, buckle up, and pull the starter triggers as my crew climb in and secure seat belt and shoulder harnesses.
"Everyone secure?"
"Ready in the back."
"I'm ready here too."

I announce my takeoff over the airport unicom frequency, then check my instruments to make sure everything is within normal operating limits. We clear the surrounding trees and instantly see the scene... the accident is on the road adjacent to the airport! I call dispatch and tell them we're airborne and already over the scene. Dispatch gives me the frequency and contact information and I switch frequencies while circling the scene. The moment I have the proper frequency dialed in we hear the ground unit calling us...
"Hang on (our callsign), we're putting the strobes out for your landing now."
We see two guys walking out into a harvested field adjacent to an overturned car, carrying three flashing strobe lights.
"Do you see the strobes?"
"There are wires on the East of the road but no wires near your LZ. Your patient is a 25 year old female. She collided with a utility pole and has sustained electrical burns from contacting wires as she exited her car. She also has multi-system trauma."
"Roger that. I'm landing now", and I announce our landing to dispatch.

The area he has designated for me is a safe one... it's in an open, just harvested soybean field. Still wet from recent heavy rains, there is a three foot deep ditch full of water parallel to the road, separating the LZ from our patient's overturned automobile and the ambulance where they are stabilizing her for transfer to us. I don't want my crew to have to negotiate the water-filled ditch with the patient and stretcher, so I land over the strobes his crew has placed, then hover and land the helicopter North of the overturned car, 10 feet from the downed wires about 100 feet from the waiting ambulance.

Skids down, I say "We're on the ground" and note landing time and coordinates, secure the aircraft controls, then dismount to insure any onlookers don't approach too closely. The scene commander approaches to make sure he did nothing wrong selecting the area where he placed the strobes. I tell him his LZ was perfectly safe but explain my thought processes for landing where I did.
"I just wasn't sure you'd want to be that close to those wires" he says.
"I appreciate that sir. Thanks for thinking of our safety" I respond.

When I'm sure I can safely do so I climb into the aircraft and enter the GPS waypoint for the hospital I'm guessing they'll want the patient to be transported to, make note of the distance so I have an idea how long the flight will take, then dial the bug on the heading indicator for the heading I'll need after departing into the wind.

Twelve minutes after touchdown at the scene my crew appears out of all the flashing lights with our young accident victim on the stretcher. We carefully load her, check again to make sure all the aircraft parts are secure, then take off vertically to avoid any unseen wires. The flight to the trauma center takes 27 minutes.
(I guessed wrong and had to reprogram the GPS.)

On this dark, damp, chilly night, she was on her way to visit a family member at our local hospital. She saw "an animal" dart in front of her car and swerved to miss it and lost control. She clipped a utility pole, breaking it in half. In the accident sequence the car rotated 180 degrees and rolled onto its top. Crawling over the headliner and climbing out the rear window, she didn't realize live wires were contacting the car's now exposed (dying cockroach) undercarriage. She was electrocuted as she crawled out. She has an electrical entrance wound on her left index finger and an exit wound on her left ankle, and is VERY lucky to be alive.

Flight visibility wasn't great initially, but improved as the flight progressed.
In many ways, this gal had a guardian angel watching out for her!
These pics are blurry because the photographer is an amateur and it was mighty dark, but you can get a feel for the scene with them.
(Clicken to embiggen):


Radio Patriot said...

Yee-ikes! We just never know when catastrophe will strike, do we. last thing on this gal's mind was a trip aboard Greybeard's helo.

Interesting story, well told. You had my attention. (Although you always do!)

cj said...

GB -

I agree. You tell your stories very well.

I'd say that lady had more than one guardian angel on her side, my friend. Being so close to you and your crew wasn't a coincidence.


jinksto said...

I had a comment here then used it to create a blog post of my own. Thanks for the idea. :)

Here's the important bit:

"This guy goes to work every day and worries about whether God will clear the weather at just the right time and in just the right way to allow His guardian angels to save someone’s life. Kind of makes my worries over the 23 user accounts that I created yesterday seem trivial. Nice bit of perspective in that.

Most of us will never need your services but I for one am damned glad to know that you’re out there Greybeard. God bless, fly safe."

Callsign Echo said...

Wonderful story. I'm sure she is grateful to you and your team for being there on the night she needed you, and while I fervently pray I will never need it, I'm glad to know there are people like y'all out there that we can call on in our hour of need.