A flight nurse fell from a helicopter and died during a rescue mission Monday night in the Greenbelt area of Austin, Texas. Kristin McLain, 46, fell off a hoist while attempting to reach a stranded victim in Barton Creek Greenbelt, Firehouse reports.
McLain was a nurse with STARFlight. Program director, Casey Ping, said during a press conference Tuesday that she worked with the company for seven years. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating the incident. Ping offered little information as far as details surrounding the nurse’s death, but as she was trying to help a woman who’d fallen into the Barton Creek Greenbelt, she fell off the hoist and died at the scene. The incident occurred around 9:50 p.m. Monday when STARFlight EC-14 went on a search to locate a woman who reportedly fell off a cliff and had injuries to her leg.
The victim that STARFlight was searching for was rescued and transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge. She had non-life threatening injuries, according to Travis County officials said.
KXAN NBC reports that this is the first on-duty death for STARFlight in its 30-year history. It describes the greenbelt area as a “winding 7 1/2-mile path that stretches from Barton Springs Pool to past Loop 360. At times, it can be rugged, and many people like to climb to see cliffs that have caved.”
The news source reports that “really gusty winds came into the area Monday night” and that wind speeds “increased after sunset”; they were gusting around 20 mph near the time that STARFlight was responding to the emergency call.
The STARflight nurse who fell off the helicopter was an experienced flight nurse. McClain held a Texas Registered Nurse license and passed an accredited school in order to become a member of STARFlight. She was part of a “very small, tight-knit group.” Only seven pilots, seven nurses, seven paramedics, and three mechanics make up the STARFlight staff. McLain was one of two female nurses in the crew.
Members of the emergency response company must complete a “challenging orientation program” entailing rigorous physical conditioning, education in rescue skills, and clinical development skills.
STARFlight Director of Aviation, Willy Culberson, issued a statement regarding his respect for McClain.
“Kristin was a wonderful Flight Nurse and a very special friend. I am going to miss her with all of my heart.”
Kristin McLain is survived by her husband.
[Photo Credit: Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images]