AUSTIN, Texas - The fatal STAR Flight incident comes as Travis County officials were planning a 30th anniversary celebration later this month.
Over the past 3 decades, the STAR flight team has battled brush-fires, worked wilderness rescues, and pulled people out of rising water. Some of the flights are documented in promotional videos produced by Travis County.
One of the most intense missions took place in 2013. Onion Creek was flooding and the STAR Flight crew was sent to help people trapped in their homes and cars. Frank Sanchez was among those forced out of his home along Pearce Lane.
"We'll it was pretty amazing."
Sanchez remembers watching neighbors and even law enforcement officers sailing above tree tops to dry ground. For him the high-wire act by the STAR Flight crew is something he will never forget.
"They were marvelous, they were class A top cats. They were very very good."
STAR Flight began as an air ambulance service in 1985. As its role expanded the original red white and blue helicopters transitioned, in 1998, to the familiar yellow and blue colors. The fleet now includes a Huey which was purchased after the Bastrop wildfire.
In 2014- star flight flew almost 200 missions involving fires, assisting law enforcement as well as search and rescue. A total of 1,169 patients were transported. STAR Flight is based in Austin and it has a 75 mile radius. The coverage area includes 19 counties.
A mission to Williamson County in 2010 - included flight nurse Kristin McLain who was killed Monday night. The team was responding to 911 calls from people trapped in their homes. The following is from one of the calls;
"OK, we've got to go. Furniture is flooding through the house. I'm not even sure where to go.
How much is in your house?
"It's up to my knees."
"Are you in a one story house?
"Yes, Oh, my God. Furniture is just floating through the house and I don't know where to go."
Equipment upgrades have enhanced the STAR Flight mission - like the lift system Glenn Anderson demonstrated 5 years ago. At the time Anderson was Medical Flight Chief.
"It hooks to the hoist hook and the rescuer too, and we put this around the patient. That goes under their arms and we're able to extract them," said Anderson.
STAR Flight's safety record and expertise is so respected, team members are asked to teach rescue techniques nationally and internationally. Crew members are also part of Texas Task Force 1.