STAR Flight medic Kristin McLain, who died last year after falling from a helicopter hoist while trying to rescue an injured woman in the Barton Creek Greenbelt, likely fell because she wasn’t properly secured, a federal investigation determined.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued a probable cause report Monday into the April, 27, 2015, incident. However, the report hedged on calling the findings 100 percent certain.
“In the absence of any equipment failure, it is likely that the rescuer was not properly fastened to the hoist,” it stated.
McLain, 46, had been attempting to remove a woman who had suffered a possible broken ankle while in the greenbelt. According to crew members’ accounts, she was about 100 feet in the air when she became detached from the hoist and fell.
The STAR Flight crew was prepared to help search for McLain when they realized that the injured hiker was still attached to the hoist. They took her to a nearby school track field, where a landing zone for the patient had been set up.
The two STAR Flight medics in the helicopter then returned to the greenbelt area and tried to reach out to McLain over the radio. They heard a faint reply from someone who said “… lost a lot of blood,” according to witness statements from STAR Flight crew members working that night said. It is unclear whether the person who responded was McLain.
The crew soon learned that a resident had located McLain behind a home on Westhill Lane, 500 to 1,000 feet northeast of the cliffs on Barton Creek where McLain had rescued the hiker, a safety board map of the incident showed.
Firefighters who witnessed McLain hook up to the helicopter’s hoist reported nothing unusual in the rescue before McLain fell.
At one point, McLain and the injured hiker made contact with some trees and began to spin, which the pilot was able to mitigate by moving the helicopter forward.
The hoist operator saw McLain positioned a little below normal just before she fell, a previous report said.
McLain had been with STAR Flight since 2008. After her death, STAR Flight’s operations were temporarily suspended. STAR Flight serves as the air rescue service for Travis County and several surrounding counties.