Followup on fatal rapelling accident

The U. S. Forest Service has issued a Safety Alert as a result of the accident on July 21 in which Thomas Marovich fell 200 feet to his death during rapelling training.

No. FS 09-01

July 21, 2009

Subject: Rappel Operations Equipment and Procedural Check

Area of Concern: Rappel Operations

Distribution: Rappel Bases

Discussion: This morning at approximately 1015 PDT a rappel accident occurred resulting in a fatal fall of a Forest Service rappeller. The facts we have on hand are that the helicopter and crew were assigned to the Backbone incident on the Six Rivers, NF west of Redding, CA. The crew was conducting a routine rappel proficiency mission involving in a Bell 212 HP.

A Chief’s level accident investigation is being conducted. The Forest Service is a party to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

Recommendation: We are advising all rappel units to review the Interagency Helicopter Rappel Guide (IHRG) Chapter 3, Rappel Equipment to assure that all rappel equipment meets the current standard. Also review Lesson Plan 7, Helicopter Mock-up on pages D-12 through D-16 of the IHRG.

Your review of equipment and procedures must be accomplished prior to the next operating period. The National Office is not calling for a stand-down of the rappel program at this time, until we can determine the specifics of what occurred and corrective actions to be taken. However, Region 5 has suspended all rappel activities until further notice.

The Safety Alert was signed by William C. Waterbury (AD Risk Management and Human Performance) and Ron Hanks (Chief, Aviation Risk Management and Training Systems).

The International Association of Wildland Fire reports that there have been 10 other wildland firefighter fatalities in the United States this year:

  • John C. Meyer, firefighter/mechanic, 01/03/09
  • John W. Adams, firefighter, Oklahoma,02/02/2009
  • William Roger Vorwark, firefighter, Missouri, 03/14/2009
  • Roger Hershner, pilot, Kansas, 03/08/2009
  • Gregory Carroll Cooke, firefighter, North Carolina, 03/21/2009
  • Heath Van Handel, pilot, Wisconsin, 04/08/2009
  • Dennis M. Simmons, firefighter, Kansas, 04/21/2009
  • Tom Risk, pilot, 04/25/09
  • Brian Buss, airtanker crew member, 04/25/09
  • Mike Flynn, airtanker crew member, 04/25/09

 

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+