August 31, 2013 – 7:04PM
The helicopter involved in today’s accident, pictured during a rescue operation in Tooradin in 2011. Photo: Gary Sissons
AMBULANCE Victoria has suspended all winch rescue operations after a man fell to his death as he was being airlifted to safety in Victorian bushland.
The victim suffered a broken ankle while bushwalking at Macs Cove, near Mansfield, about 10.30am.
Ambulance Victoria CEO Greg Sassella said it appeared something had gone astray with the winch as the man was being transferred in to the helicopter.
“From what we understand at the moment, a person was bushwalking with friends in fairly remote and heavily-bushed country,” he said.
“The person sustained a broken ankle and it was very difficult to have that person extracted from that type of bush.
“The helicopter was requested to winch the patient in to the helicopter and then take them to hospital.
“Unfortunately, during that operation the patient fell to his death.”
Mr Sassella said the helicopter was hovering nearly 30 metres above ground when the man fell as he reached the door.
“I understand he was at the door of the helicopter and they were attempting to get him in to the helicopter.
“This is devastating for the crew. They spend their whole lives putting themselves at risk for patients and in this instance something’s gone astray and we need to understand what it is but it’s inappropriate to comment until we do know the facts.
“It is a high-risk environment and we must make sure that we understand what happened before we resume winching again.
“Something seems to have gone wrong from when the paramedic and the patient were on the end of the winch and they’re trying to get the paramedic and the patient in to the helicopter.”
Winching operations carried out by five helicopters statewide have been suspended pending an investigation by the charter company, Australian Helicopters, and Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Mr Sassella said the flight crew and paramedic descended back down to attempt to resuscitate the man but he died on impact.
WorkSafe spokesman Peter Flaherty said ”we’re aware of an incident at Lake Eildon, and we’re making inquires”.
With Caroline Zielinski
The Sydney Morning Herald