Kites fears during Downs hill rescue

Essex and Herts Air Ambulance at Dunstable Downs. Photo by Tony Margiocchi
Essex and Herts Air Ambulance at Dunstable Downs. Photo by Tony Margiocchi

Fears have been raised over kite flying near an air ambulance helicopter during a rescue on Dunstable Downs on Sunday.

An eye-witness says he was surprised kites were still being flown during an operation to rescue a woman on Sunday afternoon.

Emergency services responded to reports that a woman had fallen. Photo by Tony Margiocchi

Emergency services responded to reports that a woman had fallen. Photo by Tony Margiocchi

The Essex and Herts Air Ambulance (EHAA) was responding to an incident where the woman had fallen on a steep, muddy bank at the Downs.

The eyewitness, who took photos, said: “The chopper was flying en-route to park when the near miss happened. Someone continued to fly the kite and the helicopter nearly hit it as it tried to land.

“To be honest I could not believe what I was seeing and although things moved fast with the air ambulance landing, as soon as the kite entered the picture my instincts took over and so I shot the sequence.

“It beggars belief that anyone would continue flying a kite with a helicopter landing nearby.

Essex and Herts Air Ambulance at Dunstable Downs. Photo by Tony Margiocch

Essex and Herts Air Ambulance at Dunstable Downs. Photo by Tony Margiocch

“If the string had broken and the kite was sucked into the main or tail rotors anything could have happened.”

But the EHAA says there was no risk to the helicopter.

A spokesman for the service said: “Kites were being flown nearby at the time, but not where the aircraft landed, and they did not cause 
any difficulties or delay 
for the EHAAT Critical Care Team who attended this 
incident.

“Kite flyers helpfully kept the area clear when it was time for the aircraft to take off.

Emergency services responded to reports that a woman had fallen. Photo by Tony Margiocchi

Emergency services responded to reports that a woman had fallen. Photo by Tony Margiocchi

“EHAAT’s Pilots and Co-Pilots are highly skilled and very experienced. They always take the utmost care when selecting landing sites and only land when they are completely sure that it is safe to do so.

“Although kites were being flown in an adjacent field, the line of approach taken by the Pilot ensured there was no risk of the helicopter coming into contact with them.”

Other emergency services also attended the scene and the woman was taken to hospital by the East Anglian Ambulance Service.

A spokesman for the EAAS said: “We were called at 12.34pm yesterday with reports of a patient who had fallen near Whipsnade Road, Dunstable.

Essex and Herts Air Ambulance at Dunstable Downs. Photo by Tony Margiocch

Essex and Herts Air Ambulance at Dunstable Downs. Photo by Tony Margiocch

“We sent our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), one ambulance and the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance.

“A woman in her 50s was taken to Luton and Dunstable Hospital for further treatment.”

A spokesman for Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue said: “Crews from Dunstable and Luton including our Technical Rescue Unit attended Whipsnade Road, Dunstable, just after 2.20pm yesterday (Sunday) to rescue a casualty from a steep muddy bank using our rope rescue system.”

After the woman was taken to hospital, the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance prepared to land on top of the Downs.

The National Trust was contacted by the Dunstable Gazette but did not comment before the paper went to press, but a spokesman did say they supported the comments from the Essex and Herts Air Ambulanace.