STAR Flight nurse Kristin McLain dies in greenbelt fall from helicopter

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A STAR Flight nurse fell to her death Monday night during a rescue in the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Kristin McLain, who served as a flight nurse and rescuer on the chopper, was part of a team responding to a rescue when she fell from the aircraft.

The crew was called to an area near the 2600 block of Barton Hills Drive about 8:25 p.m. to help a woman who had fallen in the greenbelt. She was being lifted to safety about 9:50 p.m. when McLain fell from the helicopter’s hoist, according to Lisa Block with Travis County Emergency Services. McLain, 46, died at the scene. She had been with STAR Flight for seven years.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Lynn Lunsford said Tuesday that the National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of this investigation because it involves a death.

“The FAA will be part of that investigation, but all of our findings will be turned over to the NTSB,” said Lunsford. “The NTSB will be in charge of all updates on the progress of the investigation.”

Authorities investigate after a STARFlight medic died after falling from the helicopter. (Juan Salinas/KXAN)
Authorities investigate after a STAR Flight medic died after falling from the helicopter. (Juan Salinas/KXAN)

A team from the NTSB on Tuesday begins its investigation into the incidentSTAR Flight’s first on-duty death in its 30-year history. The greenbelt system is a winding 7 1/2-mile path that stretches from Barton Springs Pool to past Loop 360. At times, it can be rugged, and many people like to climb to see cliffs that have caved.

Meanwhile, the rescued woman was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge with injuries that were not life-threatening. She is in stable condition. No further information about the incident was immediately available.

STAR Flight grounds fleet

The National Transportation Safety Board grounded the helicopter involved in the incident, and STAR Flight elected to suspended operations for their other three choppers. There is no estimate on how long their helicopters will be grounded.

In the meantime, STAR Flight will rely on three other companies to help fill the void. AirLife out of San Antonio and New Braunfels, AirEvac in Burnet, and PHI in Bastrop County will provide air EMS services for the area served by STAR Flight.

About Kristin McLain

Kristin McLain was from Colorado. A seven-year STAR Flight veteran, McLain joined STAR Flight in 2008 and was one of only two female nurses on the STAR Flight staff, according to the company’s website. McLain was part of a very small, tight-knit group. The STAR Flight staff includes only seven pilots, seven nurses, seven paramedics and three mechanics.

To become a STAR Flight nurse, crewmembers must be graduates of an accredited school of nursing and hold a Texas Registered Nurse license with at least three years experience in a hospital care area. The company also says that nurses undertake a challenging orientation program when they first start — consisting of intense physical conditioning, rescue skills education and clinical skills development.

In a statement to KXAN, STAR Flight Director of Aviation Willy Culberson said, “Kristin was a wonderful Flight Nurse and a very special friend. I am going to miss her with all of my heart.”

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Gusty Monday night

A boundary of really gusty winds came into the area Monday night. Wind speeds increased after sunset. Winds were gusting to, or just above, 20 mph spanning the time of the STAR Flight incident Monday. Wind speeds listed here are at the surface; wind speeds at the chopper’s height were likely higher.

Wind Speeds during STAR Flight Accident

 

Media briefing overnight

Where this happened