On the 27th May 2017, a Goma Air cargo plane crashed near Tenzing Hillary Airport, Lukla, in Nepal. The plane had a crew of three: pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant.
An Air Dynasty medical team, consisting of Captain Andrew Gutsell, a specialist mountain helicopter pilot; Alyssa Lowe, an Emergency Nurse; and Andrew Roy, an Advanced Flight Paramedic, was quick to react.
Mr Roy scaled down the side of a cliff to the plane’s fuselage, followed by Ms Lowe, who was carrying a large bag full of medical equipment and a portable stretcher down the slippery side of the cliff. Mr Roy quickly organised a group of Nepali Army and Police officers to evacuate the critically injured flight attendant, who was escorted to Lukla Hospital. The pilot had died on impact but the co-pilot was still alive.
Some 400 or so local civilians and others had arrived at the crash site. Mr Roy and Mr Gutsell, who were inside the plane, convinced the civilians to stop hacking at the exposed metal in an attempt to free the casualties inside, as this was causing heavy sparking and risked tipping the plane from its wedged position on the side of the cliff. There was a large quantity of aviation fuel and hydraulic fluid around the crash site and Mr Gutsell also removed the oxygen bottles from the aircraft, as they posed a very high risk of detonation.
It took an hour to remove metal panels which were surrounded by live electrical wires and adjacent fuel lines. Mr Gutsell had to extinguish fire in the cockpit after leaking hydraulic lines caught alight. Eventually the co-pilot was able to be pulled up through the cockpit cabin.
Mr Roy and Ms Lowe provided immediate life-saving medical treatment to the co-pilot on the side of the runway, aided by two Australian nurses. En-route to the hospital Mr Roy maintained the co-pilot’s airway and provided manual ventilation.
The highest level of trauma care was provided to the co-pilot, with every medical intervention possible being applied. However, his injuries were not survivable.
The team went on to provide continuous attendance, treatment, and pain management for the critically-injured flight attendant, until the weather cleared enough to allow her evacuation to the major hospital in Kathmandu the following morning. She would not have survived the night without this vital care.
After a 17-hour sleepless marathon, providing every resource within their power to the crash victims, the team re-set and went straight back to work providing rescue and medical services to numerous other patients.
The team risked injury traversing unstable and extremely narrow dirt paths down the cliff. In Ms Lowe’s case, she did so while carrying equipment in both hands.
They also potentially saved dozens more lives by controlling the crash scene, providing crowd control, and mitigating hazards to prevent a catastrophic post-crash fire and ensuing explosion. The courage and bravery shown by these three individuals is remarkable.