Donor liver saved after plane crash
A dramatic account of how a donated organ for a dying liver patient was recovered from the wreck of a burning light aircraft has been given in an air accident report.
The Cessna aircraft hit a 50ft-high flight-guiding antenna as it came in to land in thick fog at Birmingham Airport, the report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.
The plane crashed on grass near the runway and caught fire, with the 58-year-old captain trapped in his seat. The fog was so thick that fire crews "could not immediately locate the accident site", said the report into the incident on the afternoon of November 19 last year.
But the first vehicle was at the scene within three minutes, the fire was put out and the captain was helped out of the aircraft. The donor liver was successfully recovered from the Cessna and taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where it was successfully transplanted into a patient.
At the time, Simon Bramhall, a consultant liver transplant surgeon at the hospital, said the recipient was on a "super urgent" list and "would certainly have died" without it.
Mr Bramhall said: "Patients on this list only have a matter of days to survive, so in this particular instance it was crucially important that the donor liver was used and has functioned successfully." He added that it was "pretty amazing" that the liver made it to the hospital in perfect condition.
The Cessna, with just two crew on board, had flown to Belfast Aldergrove Airport to collect the liver and transport it to Birmingham.
The plane had then flown to Birmingham where, the AAIB said, witnesses at the airfield described the weather as "extremely unusual, both for the sharp delineation between the fog and the area of clear visibility, with blue sky and sunshine, and for the speed with which the fog engulfed the airfield".
The co-pilot managed to get out of the aircraft after the crash. The captain, whose right foot was trapped in the cockpit, used a fire extinguisher to deal with the flames around him and used his oxygen mask to continue breathing.
One of the firemen who entered the aircraft was unable to get right into the cockpit but the captain managed to free himself and crawl backwards to a point where he could be helped out. Suffering serious injuries, he was treated at the scene before being flown by air ambulance to hospital. The co-pilot had minor injuries.