A MAN was knocked unconscious when a file of A4 paper fell 700ft from a North-East air ambulance helicopter and hit him on the head.

The accident happened three minutes after the helicopter had taken off after taking a patient to hospital, it was revealed yesterday.

The aircraft was flying over Thornaby, near Stockton, back to its base at Durham Tees Valley Airport when an unlocked door opened and items fell out.

An inquiry by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) revealed that shortly after take-off from Middlesbrough, a cabin door swung open and objects, including a stationery folder, hit a man below and knocked him unconscious.

Emergency services were alerted by an off-duty Police Community Support Officer who looked up and saw items falling from the helicopter.

As well as striking a man, several items landed in nearby gardens and were recovered by local youths.

As a result of the incident, which took place on June 17, air accident investigators have ordered all air ambulance crew to be retrained on securing helicopter doors.

Paramedics were called to Stirling Way in Thornaby to treat a man, 24, but a spokesman for the North-East Ambulance Service (NEAS) said that his injuries were classed as not life-threatening and he was not taken to hospital.

“We received a call at 7.49pm about a 24-year-old man who had been hit on the head by an object that had fallen from the sky. He was checked over but not taken to hospital.” said Mark Cotton, assistant director of communications at NEAS.

The Aerospatiale Dauphin aircraft was leased to the Great North Air Ambulance by PDG Helicopters, the UK’s largest on-shore helicopter operator.

The report said: “Approximately three minutes after take-off at approximately 700ft while en-route to the helicopter’s base at Durham Tees Valley Airport, a loud bang was heard and the paramedic in the rear of the aircraft remarked that the right rear cabin quarter-door had opened. A number of objects were seen to fall from the aircraft but the door, though fully open, remained attached.

“Later it was reported that a plastic A4 stationery folder that had fallen from the helicopter hit a person on the ground, rendering him unconscious.”

The AAIB document said it was likely that the door was not secured before take-off and that the door pins were either not located or only partially located.

It also ordered that pilots check all the doors are locked or get confirmation from a HEMS crew member before continuing with the “before taxi checklist”.

A spokesman for PDG Helicopters said the aircraft was still flying and he was satisfied with the recommendations.

Police were alerted to the incident by an off-duty police community support officer, who saw items falling in the Thornaby area.

A spokeswoman for the Great North Ambulance Service declined to comment.

■ Are you the man who was hit on the head? If so, we want to hear your story. Call 01325- 505078