Death plunge in helicopter rescue attempt
Equipment failure is not thought to have contributed to the death of a 68-year old hunting enthusiast who fell during a helicopter rescue attempt, says Air Ambulance Victoria CEO Greg Sasella.PT1M11S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2szkh 620 349 September 2, 2013
A Sydney man who plunged to his death while being winched onto a rescue helicopter in Victoria has been remembered as an "absolute gem of a bloke" who was passionate about the hunting movement.
Robert "Bob" Davis had called for help after breaking his ankle while out hunting deer at Macs Cove, on the shores of Lake Eildon, on Saturday morning.
The 68-year-old, from Riverwood in Sydney's south, was being winched with a paramedic up to the hovering rescue helicopter when he fell just as he reached the doorway of the helicopter on Saturday morning.
'Devastated' paramedics and crew are to receive counselling.
Mr Davis plummeted 30 metres to the ground, where he died from injuries suffered in the fall.
"Normally when the cavalry gets there you expect to get rescued, not trampled by the horses as they come in. That's the analogy that was put to me yesterday," said John Mumford, the NSW president of the Australian Deer Association who has known Mr Davis for 15 years.
"Bob was a very keen advocate for hunters, a very keen hunter and fisherman and an absolute gem of a bloke, a larger-than-life sort of character. It would be very hard to find someone who had a bad word to say about him. He was just one of those people that everybody liked."
'Freakish incident': Victim fell 30 metres to his death while being rescued.
Mr Mumford said Mr Davis, a married father of two, was the president of the St George Hunters and Anglers Association and was passionate about the sports of hunting and fishing.
"As long as he was out hunting he was a very happy lad," he said.
"The bottom line is that he was a brilliant bloke, an absolute gentleman and it's a really, really big loss."
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Ambulance Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria have all launched separate investigations into the incident.
Sources said Mr Davis was believed to have been on an organised hunting trip with a local guide, and his son may have been with him at the time of the fall.
Mr Davis, who friends estimated stood at more than 185 centimetres tall, was thought to have weighed about 120 kilograms, and Ambulance Employees Australia secretary Steve McGhie said the victim's weight would be taken into account during the investigations.
Weather conditions and the possibility of faulty equipment would also be examined.
“Unfortunately, it is a freakish incident that has ended tragically,” he said.
“We need to find out what went wrong so it can be prevented from happening again.”
Mr McGhie said winch rescues were commonplace and he had not received any concerns from paramedics about winching procedures or equipment.
He added that the attending paramedics and air crew were “devastated” by the accident and would undergo counselling.
Mr Mumford said he had been hunting for Sambar deer in the same area where Mr Davis died, and it was "not difficult country by any stretch of the imagination".
"There are areas where you get pretty rugged bush and steep hills and then you get flat clearings. That area there is probably a moderate sort of area, where it's fairly easy to hunt, but it doesn't take much to break an ankle," he said.
"There are a number of groups in that area of Victoria that do guided hunts. Samba deer, which they would have been chasing, are a very difficult animal to chase.
"We only get one or two weekends down there a year. It cuts a lot of walking time out to get a local to show you where they are."
An Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokesman said four of its investigators from Canberra and Brisbane arrived at the site on Sunday morning and had interviewed the helicopter's crew and examined the harness and helicopter.
He said the cause of the fall was not yet known.
Ambulance Victoria CEO Greg Sassella said the victim was near the helicopter when he fell.
"The person was being winched into the helicopter by a paramedic and close to, or at the helicopter, he fell to his death," Mr Sassella said.
The paramedic was immediately lowered back to the ground to help Mr Davis, however he died at the scene.
Mr Sassella said Saturday's accident was the first of its kind in Victoria, and that everyone involved in the tragedy - including the pilot, crewman and paramedic - was devastated and had been offered counselling.
"This is tragic, they spend their whole lives risking their lives to help people, they were trying to help this person and do their best and something has gone astray and that's distressing to the crew and of course to the family," he said.
Winching operations carried out by five helicopters across Victoria were suspended immediately following Mr Davis' death, although three of those helicopters have since been cleared to continue.
A decision about the remaining two helicopters could be made as early as Monday afternoon.