An air ambulance responding to an injury accidentally shredded a telephone line while taking off from a road in British Columbia, Canada — and it was all caught on video.
A man had fallen roughly 15 feet into a water-filled ditch while pruning trees from a tractor bucket, injuring his back. First responders said the man’s body was submerged halfway in the water at the bottom of the trench.
It was decided that due to the severity of the man’s back injuries and the distance from medical facilities, a helicopter was needed to transport the man to the hospital. Firefighters lifted him out of the water and transferred him to a medical helicopter that had landed on the road. However, immediately after taking off, the rear rotor of the helicopter hit a telephone line. The pilot felt the vibrations and landed in the clearing next to the road to be safe.
The pilot, according to Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, simply misjudged the proximity of the nearby power lines. They say they will not be looking into the accident further after conducting their initial investigation.
An investigator from the TSB said he felt the mishap was a risk that comes with air ambulance helicopters in particular, having to operate in unusually tight areas. While air ambulance pilots are extremely skilled and experienced, he said, the job description typically has them landing in unfavorable, even dangerous conditions. He added that it was unfortunate that the pilot didn’t realize the tail rotor was so close to the telephone lines.
A man nearby had heard the noise from the helicopter and got out his camcorder to film the air ambulance taking off.
“I have a friend who is a pilot, [I] thought he might be interested in the take-off and was not expecting what we saw,” he told British Columbia’s CTV News. He added that he was impressed by the pilot’s control over the aircraft, and that it was lucky the rotor blades didn’t break and hit anyone on the ground.
In the man’s video, one can see the helicopter lift off the roadway, turn counter-clockwise, and ascend, clipping the telephone line with its tail rotor. The pilot then flies over a deep ditch and carefully lands the helicopter in a field directly next to the road.
As a precaution because of the accident, the patient was taken to the hospital via ground ambulance.
Dan Froom, the executive director of BC Ambulance, said the helicopter was left overnight in the field until it could be “checked out” in the morning to ensure it was safe to fly.
The Youtube video of the ambulance has been viewed almost 25,000 times since it was posted 2 weeks ago. Many people, most non-pilots, have been posting comments (many of them expectedly obnoxious) critiquing the pilot’s flying. However, the overall consensus is that accidents happen, and the pilot handled the accident very well under the circumstances.
We at Air Ambulance Weekly are glad no one at the scene was hurt and that the patient was able to get to the hospital with no further problems.
In addition, it is fortunate that the clipping of the telephone line was relatively uneventful, unlike this shocking incident you may recall from a year and a half ago that was also caught on video (the lines in this case, however, were power lines):
(Note: Despite the startling appearance of the bright flames and sparks in the night, no one was injured in this incident either. Coincidentally, the helicopter in this video was also responding to a man who had fallen.)