Death of woman 'blown over' by helicopter at Derriford Hospital described as a 'never event'

Jean Langan was killed in March 2022. Credit: Family Handout

A coroner has described the death of a woman who was blown over by a helicopter at Derriford Hospital as a 'never event' - meaning a serious incident or error that should not occur if safety procedures are followed.

Jean Langan, 87, a mother and grandmother, died in the incident at Plymouth's main hospital on 4 March this year.

She was walking through Car Park B after a hospital appointment with her niece, Gael, when she was blown over by the downdraft from an HM Coastguard helicopter landing on the hospital's helipad.

A pre-inquest review into Mrs Langan's death held at Plymouth Coroner's Court on 6 October was attended online by legal representatives from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), the Civil Aviation Authority, Devon and Cornwall Police, NHS University Hospitals Plymouth and HM Coastguard, the crew of the helicopter and the Health and Safety Executive.

Senior coroner Ian Arrow said the AAIB's inquiry would cover a number of elements including the flight of the helicopter on the day, its approach and landing, and whether anything about the flight was 'different to normal'.

He said the report would also look at any prior incident at the helipad, the risk assessment for the helipad at the time of its construction and any other time, previous incidents of 'downwash' and any guidance for the helipad after it was built and opened in relation to 'downwash'.

He said the inquiry was also looking at the licensing of the hospital helipad for use.

The preliminary draft report into the incident is due at the end of March 2023. NHS University Hospitals Plymouth has also commissioned its own review.