Cliffs, caves and flash flooding in Central Texas creates dangerous situations that could call for a helicopter rescue.
“The Central Texas corridor along I-35 is a unique environment for rescuers,” said Austin/Travis County EMS Instructor Cpt. Ken Larson. “It presents us with almost every type of rescue problem that most agencies could face.”
Cpt. Larson has more than 30 years of experience training flight paramedics doing a dangerous but necessary job. “It’s a very physically demanding process,” he said.
One of the main tools used to extract patients from changing environments is a hoist. The same tool flight nurse Kristin McLain fell from during the helicopter rescue earlier this week. “That is absolutely a critical component to the rescue situation,” Cpt. Larson said.
Flight paramedics spend hundreds of hours each year training to safely use equipment like hoists. “Situational awareness and emergency procedures are a big part of their training,” Cot. Larson said.
Rescues usually take a combination of crews in the air, on the ground and in the water. Choosing which components to use takes careful consideration. “The choice of air medical, air rescue service is about patient survivability and patient management, but also there are times that it’s the safest way to go about conducting a rescue,” Cpt. Larson said.
The STAR Flight helicopter used during the accident is grounded pending the outcome of a NTSB investigation. All other STAR Flight aircrafts are out of service as crews mourn their fallen comrade.
There is no set timetable for when they will be put back in service but officials confirm it will be a gradual process.