The helicopter, G-MCGY, was engaged on a Search and Rescue mission to extract a casualty near Tintagel, Cornwall and fly them to hospital for emergency treatment. The helicopter flew to Derriford Hospital (DH), Plymouth which has a Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) located in a secured area within one of its public car parks. During the approach and landing, several members of the public in the car park were subjected to high levels of downwash from the landing helicopter. One person suffered fatal injuries, and another was seriously injured.
The investigation carried out by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch identified the following causal factors:
- The persons that suffered fatal and serious injuries were blown over by high levels of downwash from a landing helicopter when in publicly accessible locations near the DH HLS.
- Whilst helicopters were landing or taking off, uninvolved persons were not prevented from being present in the area around the DH HLS that was subject to high levels of downwash.
Helicopters used for Search and Rescue and Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) perform a vital role in the UK and, although the operators of these are regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, the many helicopter landing sites provided by hospitals are not. It is essential that the risks associated with helicopter operations into areas accessible by members of the public are fully understood by the HLS Site Keepers, and that effective communication between all the stakeholders involved is established and maintained. Therefore, nine Safety Recommendations have been made to address these issues.