NTSB investigation into STAR Flight nurse’s death nears completion

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Kristin McLain_116743

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its factual report on what happened the night of STAR Flight nurse Kristin McLain’s death. The NTSB says the factual report is a narrative of the factual information collected by the investigative team.

McLain, 46, died when she fell during an evening rescue operation on April 27, 2015 on the greenbelt of Barton Creek. According to the report, McLain and the patient, who had an ankle injury, cleared the trees when being hoisted up to the helicopter. They then began a steady spin. To stop the spin, the pilot started moving the helicopter forward. The hoist operator said the spin had almost stopped, but he noticed that the flight nurse was riding in a position lower than normal. A short time later, McLain “fell from the rigging leaving the patient and medical bag still attached to the hoist hook,” according to the report.

The report indicated the pilot, hoist operator and flight nurse all completed the normal equipment and safety checks prior to departure. One emergency personnel on the ground said before McLain and the patient started their ascent, he asked her what she needed and she responded to “just get the catch hook.” Another person handed her the hook but that person said he never saw the actual hookup and she gave the “thumbs up and they took off into the air with no hesitation.”

A different firefighter said he was holding the Helicopter-Rescuer-Victim (HRV)-which consists of a steel O-ring, a blue and red webbing attachment points-for McLain. The firefighter told investigators it looked like she hooked up the Bauman bag and backpack but he didn’t actually see the actual hookup. Another emergency personnel said someone handed her the hook and she hooked into a bull ring and took off.

Examination of McLain’s vest and equipment showed no abnormalities or any evidence of equipment malfunction.

When rescuers from McLain’s body, her helmet was off, her vest was still zipped, the leg straps on and the triangle [Tri-link] was closed. A Tri-link is used where carabineers are not recommended and is the attachment point for the HRV’s carabineer.

A toxicology report indicated no drugs or alcohol in McLain’s system at the time of her death. While the factual report does not indicate what might have caused McClain’s fall, the agency is expected to release the brief of accident/probable cause report in the next few weeks.

“The NTSB investigation is ongoing,” said STAR Flight Director Casey Ping. “We are encouraged that the process is progressing with the release of the factual report and are awaiting the release of the probable cause.”

A seven-year STAR Flight veteran, McLain joined STAR Flight in 2008 and was one of only two female nurses on the STAR Flight staff.

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