Posted 8 years 326 days ago ago by Randy Mains
I should have been shocked by what he said … but I wasn’t. You see, I was driving into work one morning with my co-worker from New Zealand, Brian Taylor, to begin a day’s flying offshore in the Persian Gulf, when he lamented, “There are times when I think you’re better off getting killed in the crash.” His pronouncement was born out of a bizarre accident he’d had in a Bell 206 while fighting fires in his native land.
Shaking his head he continued, “It turned into a living nightmare for me, not because of the emergency itself, but because of a colossal misunderstanding between me, my mom, and my girlfriend, caused by shoddy news reporting.”
“I’m intrigued, Brian, what happened?”
“Well, I was flying over a burnt-out area when the engine ran down, caused by a faulty fuel control. I entered autorotation and I remember thinking while going down, ‘Man, this is really going to hurt.’”
“And were you?”
“Well, the helicopter hit the ground pretty hard causing the main rotor blades to strike the ground and disintegrate. Because I had gone down on a burnt-out hillside, the fuselage began to roll down the mountain slope. I woke up after the crash upside down in my seat, with a huge mossy rock inches from my chest. There was nothing left of the cockpit around me, so I switched off all the switches, undid my seat belt and shoulder harness, and fell out. Once clear of the wreckage, I quickly checked myself over and was soon satisfied that I’d suffered no serious injury except for a small cut to my index finger.” He held up his finger for me to inspect. Looking closely I could just make out a faint scar.
“You were lucky.”
“Well, sort of.”
“How do you mean?”
“What a mess. More like a comedy of errors. My friend, who was flying a BO-105 on the fire with me that day, had a reputation for being a bit of a cowboy. I knew he would soon be swooping in like the Calvary, with a rescue paramedic on board. To let him know I wasn’t hurt, I quickly climbed a nearby tree to gain his attention. When he flew overhead I frantically waved to him, trying to let him know I was OK, that I didn’t need the paramedic. I needn’t have bothered. The paramedic, being keen and full of adrenalin, jumped out of the helicopter from a high hover, nearly breaking both his ankles while managing to impale a piece of tree branch into his leg. That’s when I shinnied down the tree to help him.
“It gets worse.”
“Yep. There was a news chopper on scene filming the fire. They flew overhead to film the rescue. The news camera caught me loading the injured paramedic into the same chopper that he’d just jumped out of. This all happened around 3:00 pm. The footage was scheduled for the six o’clock news. Before the rescue footage was shown on TV, I was able to get home and call both my mom and my girlfriend to let them know I was OK. When the news aired at six o’clock it was the lead story, with an aerial view of my crashed JetRanger, and it showed me loading the injured paramedic into the BO-105. The reporter’s voiceover erroneously reported, ‘You can see here the paramedic loading the pilot, Brian Taylor, into the waiting chopper, which will fly him to the hospital. We’ve learned that the first thing the pilot told rescuers was that he wanted to call his wife to assure her he was OK.’”
Brian shook his head. “As you can imagine when I saw the report on the news I was aghast at the mix-up and immediately received a panicked phone call from my mom. She was nearly inconsolable saying, ‘You told me you were OK! You were just telling me that so I wouldn’t worry!’”
“But Mom I am OK. It was the paramedic who was injured, not me.”
“But I saw it on TV, Brian. Please don’t lie to me. I know you’re just trying to spare my feelings, so tell me the truth; how badly were you hurt?”
“But Mom, I am telling you the truth. I’m OK, honest.”
“But I saw the news report, Brian. Why would they lie?”
Brian shook his head again recalling the memory. “It went on like that for 10 minutes. I only managed to convince my doubting mother that I hadn’t been hurt in the crash by getting in my car and driving over to her house.”
“You couldn’t make this up.”
“Oh, but It gets worse. The shoddy reporting got me in even more hot water with my girlfriend. She rang me after seeing news of the crash on TV and exclaimed, ‘I thought you told me you weren’t married!’”
“But I’m NOT married!”
“It said so on the news. It said that the first thing you wanted to do was call your wife to assure her you were OK.”
“But I am OK. It wasn’t me being loaded into the helicopter. I was loading the paramedic into the helicopter. He’s the one who said the first thing he wanted to do was to call his wife to tell her he was OK.”
“But I saw you being loaded into the helicopter, Brian. The news broadcaster in the news helicopter said so.”
“And he was wrong. I was loading the paramedic into the helicopter. I’m OK, and I’m NOT married. You’ve got to believe me.”
Brian had lots of explaining to do that evening but eventually managed to get it all sorted out, but not before downing more than a few beers and about half a bottle of Tylenol for the throbbing headache the ordeal caused. By comparison, the cut he received on his index finger was a minor inconvenience.
About Randy: Randy Mains is an author, public speaker, and a
CRM/AMRM consultant who works in the helicopter industry after a long
career of aviation adventure. He currently serves as chief CRM/AMRM
instructor for Oregon Areo.
He may be contacted at [email protected]