Lawsuit Claims Spinning Stokes Litter During Helicopter Rescue Injured Woman

A woman who was being raised in a stokes litter that began spinning wildly out of control last year during a helicopter rescue, has filed suit against the Phoenix Police and Fire Departments. Katalin Metro and her husband George, filed suit last week in Maricopa County Superior Court claiming the incident caused her “catastrophic, permanent, and disabling injuries, and will continue to suffer pain, discomfort, disability, and anxiety in the future.”

The Metros were hiking when Katalin fell and was unable to continue under her own power. Phoenix Fire Department responded and requested an air evacuation by a Phoenix Police Department helicopter. While she was being raised, the stretcher began spinning uncontrollably. The incident was captured on video, which quickly went viral.

As explained in the complaint:

  • On June 4, 2019, Katalin and George Metro, both of whom are avid hikers, set out on their daily hike along the Circumference Trail of Piestewa Peak in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • The Metros were on their way back down a mountain trail when Katalin lost her footing, falling to the ground.
  • As a result of the fall, Katalin injured the left side of her body, including her left arm and hip.
  • Katalin also suffered an injury to her nose and broke her glasses in the fall.
  • Deciding that Katalin was too sore to continue down the mountain, George Metro contacted 911 requesting assistance.
  • Phoenix Fire Department personnel were dispatched, and arrived on scene at 8:57 a.m.
  • The EMS incident report documents that when Phoenix Fire Department personnel arrived on the trail, paramedics found Katalin on the trail in no obvious distress.
  • Katalin expressed to City of Phoenix first responders that she did not want to be taken off the trail by helicopter.
  • Despite these findings and Plaintiff’s wishes, the City of Phoenix paramedics/firefighters made the decision to transport Katalin off the trail by helicopter air rescue rather than using a Big Wheel unit or other ground-based method to transport her.
  • The Phoenix Police Department Air Support Unit was called in to air lift Katalin Metro from the Phoenix Mountain Preserve Circumference Trail.
  • Once the Air Support Unit arrived on scene, Plaintiff Katalin Metro was placed in a Bauman bag set inside a Stokes litter which was then hooked to the line that would hoist the Bauman bag, litter, and Katalin Metro up to the helicopter.
  • According to City of Phoenix personnel, as Katalin was being hoisted up and was approximately 20 meters from the helicopter, the litter and Katalin began to spin, continuing to speed up, spinning at higher and higher speeds. Helicopter crew personnel purportedly attempted to stop the spinning, but their efforts failed. The crew reports that the trail line broke and Katalin continued spinning wildly.
  • The Air Support Unit was eventually able to slow the spin enough to bring Katalin to the helicopter land where paramedics could transfer her for ground transport to the hospital.

The complaint alleged negligence, gross negligence and recklessness. While the complaint does not list a demand amount, a civil claim filed with the city last November sought $2 Million in damages. Here is a copy of the complaint:

Here is a copy of the civil claim:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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