August 21, 2014

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Idaho man survives getting partially sucked out of plane

Susan Gilmore
The Seattle Times
 
   SEATTLE — An Idaho man says he’s lucky to be alive after he was sucked partially out of a medical-evacuation airplane 20,000 feet in the air.
   Chris Fogg, who lives near Boise, Idaho, is a critical-care nurse with an air ambulance company. He said he was flying with a patient from Twin Falls, Idaho, to Seattle last Wednesday when he got out of his seat on a two-engine turbo prop to fetch a water bottle.
   When he sat back down he heard a loud boom and the window next to him exploded. He hadn’t yet buckled his seat belt, and his head and his right arm were sucked out of the window.
   “My left hand was on the ceiling and was holding me in, and my knees were up against the wall,” said Fogg. He said he pushed as hard as he could and got enough air between his chest and the window to break the seal.
   He fell back into his seat, blood pouring from his head. He said the pilot knew the plane had gone into rapid decompression but didn’t know about the broken window, so he put the airplane into a dive to a safe altitude of 10,000 feet.
   Fogg, who said just the patient and the pilot were in the plane with him, rolled over on his hands and knees, breathing hard. “I kept saying, `Don’t pass out, don’t pass out, I have a patient on board and I have to take care of the patient.”’
   He said airplane supplies started flying around the plane and out the window, and he lost his charting material, his name tag, glasses and packages in the back of the plane.
   Fogg said the patient, who saw the whole thing, was not in danger because he was on oxygen. But he said the patient was a Vietnam veteran and told Fogg he had flashbacks of being shot out of the air.
   Fogg said the patient had two pillows, so he took one and pressed it to his head to stop the bleeding.
   The pilot made an emergency landing in Boise, and Fogg was rushed to the hospital, where he got 13 stitches in his head.
   Fogg, 41, is a big man, 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, which he thinks helped him survive.
   “I guess it wasn’t my day to die,” he said. “For anyone else, I think he would have been sucked completely out, but for some reason I was spared, and I don’t know why.”
   Fogg said he had flown a patient to Seattle earlier in the day and was on his way home when he was diverted to Twin Falls for a second medevac. The flight was to be about two hours.
   Fogg has worked for 24 years for the Ada-Boi air ambulance service, which his father owns. The next day he was back at work.
   “It was pretty scary, I’ll tell you that,” Fogg said. He said he was wearing headphones when he was pulled out the window.
   “I have a vivid picture of looking at the tail of the plane and seeing my headset dangling out of the plane,” he said.
   He said the remains of the window was sent to the Federal Aviation Administration to try to figure out what caused it to blow out.
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