Accident management post-hoc analysis

It has been 2 months now since Olivier has had an accident during the start of the first task in PWC Mina Clavero, Argentina.

Too many of the problems that occurred after that sad split second should not have had and the purpose of this communication is to help preventing them to happen again.

Olivier received warm support from individuals: guys like Joël (or Michaël in Mexico) will always do their best to land close to you in order to bring you first aid; guys like Martin or Edu will always be at your side with all their heart; guys like Didier or Christophe will push their way for you even when remote.

The problem lies with the organizations these guys are member of, and more precisely with the procedures, when they exist, within these organizations.

Paragliding, as a small sport, has huge difficulties to learn from its mistakes. Volunteers are willing to act, lack time for investment and second thought, so they repeat again and again well-known recipes without fixing them. Let’s try to improve this by an open communication.

Olivier’s accident is tragically common: he hit the ground, rotating, below the take-off, in rugged terrain. Joël bravely landed close-by and ran to him in boulder blocks. Olivier fainted then managed to announce on the radio frequency that his back hurt, that he could not move. When Joël reached Olivier, he immediately called for a helicopter. And he did it again and again over the next 2 following hours. No helicopter came.

In the absence of helicopter, the tough job of extracting Olivier from the mountain lied in the hands of the ground staff. The local safety squad consisted basically of firemen or stretcher bearers. They had no pain killers, not even a paracetamol pill, no IV, no nothing, just their legs and arms fuelled by lots of willingness associated with a fair amount of good humor.

The local hospital proved to be a very basic health center. It had no X-Ray machine. Only a tomographic equipment delivering black stained photographs. The local medic diagnosed a displaced vertebra and suggested a return trip to Córdoba for a check-up, just in case.

One way to Córdoba in an ambulance is a four hour drive, a real torture. The next day Olivier was diagnosed with two broken vertebrae. But the public hospital he was in had no capacity to perform surgery. Even the IRM equipment for a clearer picture of the damage was not available before a couple of days. So Olivier had to change hospital for a proper diagnosis with a capable surgery team. Up to this time, he was still lying on a wooden plank for fear of further problems.

The PWCA requirements for safety resources are obviously far below our expected standards, or were not checked enough beforehand. Meanwhile, no officer ever asked about the status of Olivier, not in Mina Clavero, not in Córdoba, not when back in France, not even after he sent a feedback about the issues at hand.

Usually the French Federation sends a doctor together with the numerous French pilots to all PWC events. Unfortunately, personnel availability reasons combined with federal budget restrictions, as well with the absence of French hot shots, led to the absence of medical support. Usually again, the PWCA is happy enough to have this free additional support. Unfortunately for Olivier, no such capable support was available.

The French coach, also not present on the spot, offered an excellent remote interface with all the necessary contacts in France. Christophe, the French doctor, did also his best to keep his nerves cold when interfacing with AXA, the repatriation insurance company. François, the federal doctor, while informed way too late of the accident, allowed to speed up the processes with AXA and to find an excellent hospital in France to welcome Olivier and put him through delicate surgery again.

Now let’s talk a bit more about AXA. That very same insurance company that displayed on French TV screens the week before the comp a wonderful ad basically stating: « wherever you are in the world, if you are in trouble or pain, we will bring you back ». What they do not say is when and how much savings they will try before.

In that case be prepared to explode your mobile phone plan, should you be the wounded or one of his supporters. And do not expect anyone to ask you about this cost and even less to offer some kind of refund. Pray also that your own family is fluent enough in the adequate local language so as to obtain medical information and take urgent decisions.

Thanks to the support of local pilots such as Martin, Olivier has been eventually moved to an excellent hospital. His legs were getting numb. In his new hospital, Olivier was naked, had had the Betadine shower, ready to enter the surgery block when AXA called and say « we will not pay, a paper is missing in our files ». He was unapologetically sent back to his room because of a belated administrative bypass, supposedly some kind of missing payment you will never hear again of.

Every time you call AXA for an update on the situation, you will talk to another bored guy in a call center, most of them not willing to share any kind of information with you.

If you are in Córdoba they will seriously offer an ambulance transfer to Santagio, Chile, across the Andean Cordillera in order to save the cost of a sanitary plane to Buenos Aires. If you tell them that this is madness, they will still study a 10 hours ambulance trip to Buenos Aires. It is only by getting at the very limit of being rude on the phone that they will dispatch a plane.

AXA will argue about every cent and the model of a corset that in fact is neither necessary nor matching the requirements of the local medical team.

And on the last day, minutes before boarding the plane that will bring you back to France, some kind of clown announcing himself as AXA referent doctor in Argentina will show up his face for the first time in 3 weeks to declare he provided such a good support all along the process. AXA is a joke.

After 10 weeks, a first operation in Argentina to fix 5 vertebrae together, a second one in France that could not recover the cervical alignment, Olivier although convalescing is still unable to work, to drive, even to walk more than half an hour and yet has to resort to heavy medication to relieve renewed pains. He insists all the same on sending a mighty salute to all his paragliding companions who supported him and helped him keep confident in this sport. If only we could learn from his adventure.

(Written with the kind collaboration and supervision of Béatrice, Olivier’s spouse – not pictured here 😉 )

12 réflexions sur « Accident management post-hoc analysis »

  1. I have other examples. Axa deserves a class action. But oh wait, you cannot have one in France… (unless you belong to a good old fashioned state approved society)
    Get well soon Olivier !!

  2. Salut Olivier
    nous nous connaissons, car c’est moi qui t’ai acheté ta kanibal en 2013
    je vois que tu as toujours le sourire ,c’est bon signe
    je te souhaite un tres bon retablissement,
    ps, je vois que tu es en très bonnes mains

  3. Thank you Olivier for smiling through this long journey. It reminds me of my broken pelvis 8 years ago. I hope you enjoy a good outcome. Thank you also Maxime for reflecting on lessons learned to avoid this risk in future: have an emergency plan that allows recovery in the 1st golden hour; ensure a helicopter with winch; clean the take-off area of branches and sticks that cause line knots. Nice local organisation and nice people but these fundamental issues should not have been allowed to happen.

  4. Hello Maxime and thanks for this post.

    I am more than happy that things are finally getting better for Olivier, and that is what matters most.
    I am really disappointed that he will not come to PWC in Macedonia, event that he boldly won back in 2012.
    However, it would be wise to take more realistic perspective on the reality regarding safety structures around the globe.I am reading that as a footnote in your comments. It was discussed so many times. Options are quite simple: or we stick with the most developed countries that are not motivated to organize comps at all, or we continue exploring other places at risk that you elaborated in detail.
    Please do not forget that calendar is presented than accepted at General assembly by the pilots and anyone is allowed to comment. Responsibility, as in all associations, is shared at all levels.

    And I certainly disagree with:
     » Meanwhile, no officer ever asked about the status of Olivier………. »
    I am not quite sure on which kind of officers you are referring, but that can’t apply for PWCA staff.

    At the end, Olivier, keep strong, I hope that we will fly together soon.

  5. Bonjour Olivier

    J’ai eu un accident au Bresil . J’ai connu les memes problèmes que toi avec AXA . Les reponses de l’hôpital dans le genre: on ne vous soignera pas parce que AXA ne paye pas . Appeler mille fois en France depuis mon lit au Bresil pour qu’il bouge un tout petit peu …finalement mal soigné , complications et rattrapé de justesse en France avec embolie pulmonaire apres hemorragie …je suis encore en convalescence 14 mois apres .
    Apparement tu es sur la bonne voie … bien entouré alors courage et bon rétablissement et un un si un jour qlq un créé un action group contre AXA j’ai aussi des choses à dire !

  6. Olivier,

    Ton sourire me fend le cœur vu les circonstances .. Je te souhaite le meilleur rétablissement possible. Prends soin de toi

  7. Sans aller aussi loin, nous avons eu le mm genre de difficulté de rapatriement pour Serge blessé à ténérife (AXA à mis une semaine a se résoudre à afrètter un vol de rapatriement sanitaire). Je vous transmettrais ses coordonnées en cas de recours groupé.
    Bon courage,

  8. Tout d’abord, bon retablissement au blesse.

    J’ai aussi eu une mesaventure similaire avec AXA apres un accident au Pakistan en Juillet 2012 (fracture grave du bassin et de la cheville). Apres avoir passe des jours et des jours au telephone et organise avec mes amis un rapatriement sur une civiere qui devait etre positionne sur les sieges d’un vol regulier vers l’Europe, AXA a finalement decide d’affreter un avion sanitaire car ils ne voulaient pas avoir leur responsabilite engagee si quelque chose tournait mal . C’est le seul moyen de pression qui les a fait bouger. A noter cependant et pour relativiser comme je suis resident au Royaume-Uni j’avais aussi une assurance Britannique qui etait 20 fois plus chere qu’AXA (300 euros contre 15 euros pour le supplement rapatriement AXA en 2012) mais aussi 20 fois pire.

    A la suite de ma mesaventure j’avais eu un contact avec Michel Meyer a la federation pour qu’il y ait un retour vers AXA mais il semble qu’une discussion plus approfondie soit requise. Je ne suis plus membre a la FFVL en ce moment (membre du BHPA UK) amis suis pret a partager mes observations.

    Daniel Gravier

  9. Bonjour,
    Vendredi 31 Janvier 2014, à Tenerife, j’ai eu un accident également. Axa a refusé le rapatriement sanitaire, car trop couteux ! Impossible de joindre la Fédération, alors qu’une décompression du canal rachidien était nécessaire en urgence, j’ai du me résoudre a me débrouiller par mes propres moyens. Quant à avancer les frais médicaux d’urgence. Il n’en a jamais été question….
    Assuré AXA par la fédération: Accident 3 + rapatriement, j’ai toujours pensé que la fédé faisait ce qu’il y a de mieux pour ses licencies… à tort.

    Bon rétablissement à Olivier.

  10. Je trouve le commentaire du président ‘auto-réalisateur’ car à l’AG de la pwc il n’y a que des membres de la pwc. Par définition des pilotes qui ont accepté l’habitude d’aller dans ces pays malgré le risque. La pwc ne se posera de questions que s’il y a de moins en moins de pilotes pour faire les coupes du monde. Ceci n’arrivera vraiment que si un autre circuit se met en place, peu probable.

  11. Salut Olivier,

    Je me rappelle quand j’avais fait le relai radio à la A des saisies, quand tu t’étais retrouvé en fâcheuse posture, dans les Aravis. Au final, j’avais été super content que tu n’ai rien (ou pas grand chose). J’avais abandonné la manche tout en restant en l’air, car je pense qu’inconsciemment je faisais ce qui était le plus essentiel.
    Cela m’attriste beaucoup que cette fois ce soit plus grave, et que tu n’as pas pu avoir les soins adhoc.

    Je te souhaite le meilleur des rétablissements.

    Bien amicalement.

    Bruno C.

  12. Today, Axa just told me they won’t do anything for us.

    I have no words to said what i’m thinking about them.


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