NTSB: Chopper Hoist Was Spinning Before Texas Nurse’s Fatal Fall

May 6, 2015

Investigators say a hoist suspended from a medical helicopter, which was carrying a nurse and patient from a Texas hiking trail, was spinning just before the nurse fell to her death.

The National Transportation Safety Board on May 5 released its preliminary report into the April 27 accident at the Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin.

The report says 46-year-old Kristin McLain secured the patient in a carrier and that the two were suspended from the EC-145 helicopter when the hoist began to spin. The spin had almost stopped when the hoist operator inside the STAR Flight helicopter noticed that the nurse was riding lower than normal. McLain then fell from the hoist.

McLain died at the scene. STAR Flight did not release any information about why or how far she fell. The company uses four helicopters for rescues and emergency transport in Travis County.

The NTSB report also does not say how far she fell.

Travis County Emergency Services, which operates STAR Flight, didn’t immediately return messages.

The STAR Flight helicopters usually carry three emergency personnel — a pilot, a hoist operator and a nurse or other rescuer, a spokesperson said. The nurse typically would use a harness system, she said.

STAR Flight did not identify the rescued woman but said she was taken to University Medical Center-Brackenridge in Austin with injuries that were not life-threatening. Barton Creek Greenbelt has trails for biking, running, rock climbing, swimming and hiking.

Weather conditions at about the time of the rescue were clear, with temperatures in the mid-70s and winds of less than 5 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

McLain had worked for STAR Flight for seven years, was single and originally from Colorado.

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