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Give medics radios to warn pilots, says copter crash report

PARAMEDICS should be equipped with radios so they can alert helicopter pilots to potential dangers around landing sites used for medical emergencies, a report has warned.

The report into the forced landing of an Air Corps helicopter in June last year said a paramedic had spotted dangerous powerlines but was unable to alert the pilot.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) report said the pilot had less than one second to react after spotting a cable.

The Air Corps helicopter, was on its way to airlift a patient to hospital on behalf of the HSE shortly after 1pm on June 19, 2012, when it struck overhead power lines and crash-landed in a field near Borrisoleigh in Co Tipperary.

The aircraft, which was carrying three crew, was attempting to pick up an elderly patient at a crossroads to transport them to Limerick Hospital.

The crew escaped uninjured, but the helicopter was badly damaged.

The investigation found that all procedures had been followed correctly by the pilot, who had circled the proposed landing site before attempting to touch down, but that "wire camouflage" – where wires could be hidden from the air by fields, hedges and trees – may have played a part in the accident.

"While the known factor of 'wire camouflage' in this rural area of green fields, hedges and trees may have obscured the wires to all three sets of searching eyes from above, those on the ground clearly saw the wires against a background of clear blue sky," the report said.

"Therein lay the difference of perception of the same wires by five people, as viewed from above and from below in broad daylight."

It said radios used by emergency services should be provided to paramedics to allow them directly communicate with pilots.

"Although the garda and AP (advanced paramedic) on the ground saw the transverse wires and discussed their potential risk to the helicopter, AP had no means to directly advise the helicopter crew of the hazard," it said.

The Department of Defence told investigators that helicopters were only supposed to land a pre-approved landing sites, except in exceptional circumstances. The Tipperary site was not approved.

The AAIU said the database of suitable landing sites had to be updated to include wires, masts and buildings.

Irish Independent