December 10, 2015 9:04 pm
Updated: December 11, 2015 12:35 am

Two air ambulance pilots fired after avoiding crash near Tofino

WATCH: Two air ambulance pilots have been fired after their chopper nearly crashed twice while they were picking up a patient. John Daly has a Global News exclusive.

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The President of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC says they’re lucky not to be doing a ‘line-of-death’ memorial for two paramedics and two pilots.

The weather was clear the evening of November 15, but it was a dark, moonless night.

Air Ambulance Helicopter CG-HHJ lifted off the South Terminal of YVR for Tofino to pick up a stroke patient to be transported to Victoria.

The Sikorsky S76C was flying night VFR. Sometime after 1 a.m. the aircraft was descending for Tofino.

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But instead of being over the airport, illuminated with turbo flares in the dark, CG-HHJ was on the other side of the highway, over the beach.

For some reason, the rotor speed dropped, and sources say the helicopter began to descend rapidly, spinning and pitching, knocking the paramedics in the rear about.

Emergency power was apparently applied, the engines went overspeed, and the aircraft recovered, though the overspeed may have knocked the AC alternators offline. They came back, but the temporary loss of power left the chopper without the flight stabilization system which, after the power bump, needed to be reset.

The aircraft did find the landing spot at Tofino Airport, but sources say that too was a rough landing. The paramedics union says both of its members who were onboard were badly shaken, but both have now returned to work.

“The paramedics are doing well [but] they’re very shaken up,” said Bronwyn Barter, President of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. Union.

“BCAS has been meeting their needs I understand, and we look forward to making sure this type of incident doesn’t happen again.”

The shaken paramedics did not fly out on the helicopter, and the stroke patient was transported the following day on a fixed-wing aircraft. Provincial emergency Health Services Executive VP Linda Lupini says the patient’s care was not compromised by the delay.

Helijet, the contract operator of the four Air Ambulances serving B.C., says CG-HHJ needed only minor repairs.

But it refused to confirm what a number of sources have told Global News: both pilots have been fired.

“There was an incident…we reported it, TSB now has that and has an investigation going on. So beyond that, while it’s under investigation I really can’t tell you much more,” said Rich Hill, Vice-President of Helijet.

CG-HHJ was equipped with both data and voice recorders, and they are being analyzed by the Transportation Safety Board in an attempt to discern the cause of the sudden descent.

Emergency Health Services says it is satisfied with the safety precautions it has in place with Helijet to protect patient and paramedic safety, and it awaits the TSB investigation report.

 

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