On the morning of 20th December, our helicopter pilot Andy Payne received a call at 11.10am from Craig Millar of Big Life Foundation reporting that a ranger had been knocked down by a rhino and that both his legs were broken.
He was in need of emergency evacuation and the team immediately began to prepare the helicopter. It transpired that the team of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Big Life rangers were on a security patrol and were following the tracks of a rhino through dense vegetation rooted in lava when the accident occurred.
First a call was made to Michael Nicholson at the KWS Airwing to inform him of the medivac and to request that he notifiy Wilson tower and the hospital of our arrival which he duly did. We then set about removing the seats from the helicopter 5Y-CXP and fitted the stretcher. The emergency grab bag and trauma kit were already on-board and the contents were double-checked before lift-off.
En-route it was reported that the casualty was actually a KWS ranger and not from Big Life as initially thought, which required another call to Michael Nicholson to inform him of the change so that KWS could arrange the ambulance and hospital in Nairobi. Andy landed first at Oldonyo airstrip to collect Craig Millar, before flying to the accident site, which was on the north western side of the Chuylu’s (approx 7-8km’s north of Oldonyo). The recovery vehicles were located first, and then the rangers in the lava forest, who were carrying the casualty out of the forest on an improvised stretcher. A suitable clearing was found a few hundred metres from their position for the helicopter to land. Once the injured ranger arrived, he had to be moved onto the helicopter stretcher which had been placed on a blanket on the ground, so his wounds could be inspected and emergency first aid administered. His left lower leg had an exposed fracture of the tibia and a large open wound, whilst his right lower leg had a nasty open wound and was badly swollen. Andy cleaned and dressed the wounds before splinting the legs, and gave the injured man medication for the pain. He was then loaded on-board the helicopter, with a colleague for company in the back.
The flight to Nairobi Wilson took just 52 minutes and the ranger was calm and conversant during the flight. The controller at Wilson tower was very helpful in clearing Andy directly through to the airwing apron, avoiding the mandatory stopover at the customs helipad. On landing at the KWS airwing, a nurse and numerous KWS staff assisted in offloading the ranger onto a trolley stretcher and then he was immediately whisked off to hospital.
After safely delivering the casualty to Nairobi, Mr. Tokore, COO KWS, reported that Mr. Payne performed exceptional first aid immediately upon arrival at the scene and thanked him for his expertise. A follow up call with Mr Tokore revealed that just the ranger’s left leg was broken, and that Hiram Maina Njoroge had been treated and was in a stable condition post his operation, doing well thanks to the timely effective and efficient support he received from all concerned.