In the event of an accident like that of Yeti Airlines flight 691 in Pokhara, Nepal (where the crash happened outside of the airport), what and how can those who arrive at the crash site first help?

Is there a standard procedure to follow when the medics or security personnel haven’t arrived yet? What’s the danger involved for those who’re assisting?


5 Answers 5


First things first: Immediately upon noticing an accident, report it to officials. Never think "someone else has probably already done that". I've arrived on a traffic accident site three times in my life. In two of those occasions there were already other bystanders there, but all of them were so disoriented that none had called 911.

As for the risks involved, the obvious ones are possible fire / explosions on site, and the collapse of the wreckage. The fire is most likely to ignite upon impact, and planes seldom carry other volatile material than fuel. Secondary explosions are still possible due to pressure vessels, tires etc. I may also be that the crashed plane is a military aircraft, which may carry ammo. On a site like the crash you mentioned, landslides are a possibility also.

Assessing the risks mentioned above may be difficult for a layman, but should one decide to help, I think this is not much different from any other accident type. There is some variation between instructions, but the main steps are:

  • If there are survivors, assist them. Get the injured safely away from the wreckage if remaining there poses a danger. Give first aid to those in need.
  • If there is a fire and you have the means, try to suppress it.
  • When the officials arrive on site, do exactly what they tell you to do.

All in all the main thing is to remain as calm and collected as possible, and do not take unnecessary risks. Doing this will not be easy.

Aside from the above, do not touch anything on the accident site unless it is necessary for saving lives.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jan 18 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding "get them safely away from the wreckage," I would think this one would come with some caveats. If the plane is on fire, then, yeah, sure, getting everyone out is extremely high priority. If there is no fire or other such immediate risk, though, then moving people without knowing what you're doing may cause more injury than leaving them where they are until professionals arrive. For example, moving someone with a broken bone could cause permanent nerve damage. In the vast majority of commercial airliner accidents, most or all of the injuries come from the evacuation. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Jan 18 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab you have a good point, and not that I would doubt that, but care to share some source for the assertion? I slightly edited the A as per your comment. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Jan 18 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 The Mayo Clinic's article on first aid for fractures says, "Don't move the person except if necessary to avoid further injury." As far as the nerve part, this is what I was told by every doctor and EMT I encountered when I broke my arm about a year ago. There's a major nerve that runs next to that particular bone, which can be damaged or severed by bone fragments if the fragments move the wrong way. Checking for possible damage to that nerve was one of the first things each of them did. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Jan 18 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 It's standard advice for trauma in general--you don't move the patient unless the situation they are in is unsafe. To the extent possible the emergency crews immobilize any injury potentially involving bones before moving the patient--that stays on until the hospital clears them. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 23:21

Just to add something to the other very good answers.

I used to be a paramedic and there are two main rules which always apply:

  1. watch out for yourself, always! A dead rescuer doesn't rescue anybody.
  2. if you are not wearing your uniform (i.e. if you are not working as a rescuer) every damage/harm you cause might (depending on the legislation) results in legal action against you. If unsure, just call the most appropriate emergency number and let them guide you because sometimes the best thing to do is simply to assist the person and wait for an ambulance instead of just doing something wrong and not necessary.

That being said, if you are the first one getting on the scene you actually have one of the most important job as a rescuer: collecting information about the accident.

You will be the very first person to alert the appropriate emergency service and giving a good overview of the scene is really important for the emergency system to dispatch the most appropriate rescue service. In particular you should give the exact position of the accident, who has been involved and what has been involved.

Many times happens (it happened also to myself) that upon reaching the scene what you find is very different to what you were alerted for: a bus which had an accident is a very different kind of rescue if it is full of people vs. if only the driver is inside; a motorcyclist who had an accident against a car and is screaming because of a broken leg attracts immediately all the attention... and unfortunately nobody cares about the car driver that had an heart attack and is lying unconscious in the car.

So providing the emergency service with a good overview of the accident (so called triage) is going to be the most important thing to do as first person arriving on the scene.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jan 17 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ "I've been thought by european first aids association " please point to a black on white reference for this statement, otherwise this is plain wrong. Additionally, part of delivering first aid is also calling for the emergency services. $\endgroup$
    – EarlGrey
    Jan 17 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ The legal situation varies greatly from place to place. Some jurisdictions have a duty to rescue under which people must render aid, some have no such duty and expose people to litigation if they render aid and it goes badly, and in between many have good samaritan protections. StackExchange can't give guidance that's going to be correct for every jurisdiction; people need to be aware of what rules apply where they are. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 0:01
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    $\begingroup$ @EarlGrey See cites at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Samaritan_law - it varies country by country, but many European countries have some sort of duty to rescue and accompanying protections for good-faith first-aid. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ Good Samaritan laws is a thing that covers few anglosaxon countries. In general, many countries have a "duty to rescue", which is very different than Good Samaritan law and often simply means that if you see an accident, you should stay there and provide help according to your knowledge and capabilities, which often is simply "ring 911 (or equivalent emergency number). Sometimes no help is the best help, but for sure at least notifying the emergency service is the minimum everyone can do (or ask someone to contact them). $\endgroup$
    – EarlGrey
    Jan 18 at 8:02

Best way you can assist is by staying out of the way of the professionals.

If you get there before them, help them how you best can by acting as a guide (especially in remote areas) and maybe giving them access to your home or other buildings to set up equipment.

Interfering with their work won't generally be appreciated, obviously.

If you're there before the professionals even know where to go, alert local and regional authorities of where the accident site is located.

Do NOT disturb things, unless you can safely assist any survivors and when so do as little disturbance as possible. Do NOT go souvenir hunting. And keep in mind there will be a lot of dangerous things about (fuel, other chemicals, sharp pieces of metal, etc.). And that the location of any piece may be a clue as to the cause of the accident.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Jan 20 at 0:38

I'm late to the party, but I think I have some valuable information to add. What I remember from my Polish Red Cross training long time ago is a simple list to use in all mass accident situations:

  1. Your first obligation is to not increase number of casualties, that includes safety of you and other "civilian" respondents. Don't be one more person that needs help, don't let others to be. Paramedics and firefighters will have enough on their plate anyway.

  2. Call emergency line (most likely 112, 911, or 999; see Wikipedia's article on emergency telephone numbers). It's better if everyone do this than if no one does.

  3. Before uniformed responders (paramedics, police, fire department etc) arrive, whoever starts organizing help, organizes help. Fights for leadership are usually worse than sub-optimal leadership - unless it violates point 1.

  4. No help is usually worse than bad help. More people dies because no one dared to check their airways, than people who gets paralyzed because someone did check the airways.

  5. If there's an imminent danger, like fire, of you don't know if there is but for any reason you suspect there might be, use reverse triage - help those, who require least help to get to safety. Also, see point 1.

  6. If they scream, they breathe. The ones that don't scream probably need your help more. Unless it's point 5. situation.

  7. Don't move people you don't have to move. Don't hesitate to move people you do have to move. For example, resuscitation only really works on hard flat surface. Broken bones can be treated later, death can't. Paralysis might happen if you move someone to do it, but death will happen if you won't.

  8. If you don't know what to do, do what you know, or ask somebody. If you can't help directly, because of point 1. or anything else, you can go and find a way for responders to get ambulances close, for example. Or you can stay back and not get in the way of people who knows what they should do. Nobody will think less of you for that!


You might find reading Stewart Brand's essay on his learnings from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Learning from the 1989 SF EARTHQUAKE, originally published in the Coevolution Quarterly.

After university, Stewart Brand was a US Army infantry officer, founded the Whole Earth Catalog back in the late 1960s, and was one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters. His is, you might say, a deep thinker.

As it happened, Stewart Brand was driving through the Marina District when the Loma Prieta earthquake occurred. San Francisco's Marina District is/was a neighborhood built on fill. Lots of frame buildings. When the 'quake hit, the underlying soil pretty much liquified.

As a human being, he stopped and rendered aid. One of his takeaways from the experience was that in a disaster, certainly at the beginning, leadership is AWOL. People are panicked and don't know what to do. Brand's training as an infantry officer helped him fill in the gaps and helped him get people organized and tell them what to do.


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