Friday, August 12, 2011


An accident report has just been released by the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). From that and the eyewitness accounts, here's what transpired at 3:35pm on Nov. 19, 2010:

A Cessna aircraft approaching Birmingham Airport in thick fog struck a 50' flight-guiding antenna. The plane made a hard landing near the runway and caught fire. A man playing golf nearby described, "As it was coming to land it was on fire and as as it approached the runway it looked like it was leaning to one side slightly. Then, once it hit the runway there were sort of flames alongside the runway then it broke into a big fireball." First responders were on the scene within 3 minutes and extinguished the flames. There were no passengers on board. The captain was trapped in his seat and forced to use his fire extinguisher and oxygen mask. Suffering serious injuries to his chest, abdomen, and pelvis, he was treated at the scene and flown to the hospital. He had been helped to extricate himself by the pilot of the helicopter, who was commended for his presence of mind: “The Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance pilot bravely entered the burning wreckage, using his aviation and technical knowledge to locate and cut the fuel supply to the engine." The co-pilot, suffering back pain and flash burns, was able to extricate himself and was transported by ambulance.

Here's what makes this accident - which closed the airport for hours - especially notable: the pilot and co-pilot had just collected a donor liver at Belfast Aldergrove Airport and were transporting it to Birmingham. The organ came through unscathed. It was successfully recovered from the Cessna, taken under police escort to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and successfully transplanted into a patient on the "super urgent" list. Transplant surgeon Simon Bramhall explained, "Patients on this list only have a matter of days to survive, so in this particular instance it was crucially important that the donor liver was used and has functioned successfully." The hospital released a statement that the patient was stable after a 4-hour operation, and praised the crew and rescuers: "The transplant team would like to thank the pilot of the light aircraft and his colleague for their bravery. Our thoughts are with the individuals and their families. The team would also like to thank the quick-thinking of the fire and rescue teams at the scene who saved the organ."

Sources: Belfast Telegraph, Birmingham Mail, Guardian, SkyNews, Star, Telegraph

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