New York City’s East 34 Street Metroport hosted an Apr. 26 drill to exchange information on how rescue professionals can work safely around EMS helicopters.
Roughly 150 heliport and rescue workers joined in the drill. An Atlantic Ambulance Services Eurocopter EC135 and a New Jersey State Police Sikorsky Aircraft S-76 — both configured for EMS operations — were available for attendees to inspect. Their flight crews explained the proper way to load patients, extract occupants after an accident and how to "safe" the engines and electrical systems should the pilot become incapacitated in a crash.
New York is known for its congested helicopter environment, making it a common area for helicopter crashes. In recent years, several have occurred near or at Manhattan’s three riverfront heliports. In July 2007, a sightseeing helicopter went down in the Hudson River. All eight onboard survived with minor injuries, but the accident highlighted the need to keep flight crews, heliport employees and rescue workers up to date on safety issues.
A Fire Dept. of New York fireboat was at the drill and put a diver in the East River to play the role of a passenger from a downed aircraft. Fireboat crewmembers let heliport personnel practice tossing a flotation device to the "victim" and pulling him to safety.
The drill was dedicated to the Paul Smith, a long-time New York news helicopter pilot who was killed in an October 2007 traffic accident.