13-year old Naadam rider is flown to hospital in Mongolia

13-year old Naadam rider is flown to hospital in Mongolia

Pilot Roy Rissanen flew an urgent medevac flight after an accident at a traditional Nadaam festival left a young boy's life hanging in the balance.

As the only remaining operator to Tosontsengel's gravel airstrip, MAF received the call for an urgent medevac flight, just before noon.

A 13-year old boy named Baasandorj had been severely injured falling off a race horse during the annual Mongolian festival Naadam.

No ordinary accident

Naadam is a traditional multiple-day festival that originates from the times of Genghis Khan.

The hugely popular cultural event was well attended, and the boy's accident had already created a lot of media attention.

The festival celebrated various aspects of Mongolian culture but the main focus is on three national sports: archery, wrestling and horse racing.

Of these three horse racing is considered the ultimate Mongolian sport. 

During the horse racing, riders, boys between the ages of 5 and 13 race across open terrain over a distance of between 15-30 kilometres, depending on the age of a horse.

According to local custom, they usually ride without shoes, a saddle or any protective equipment. 

The boy had fallen during one of these races, sustaining serious injuries to his head and neck.

Dark clouds looming

The team was soon busy making preparations, filing paperwork and coordinating arrangements with hospitals. 

The weather looked troublesome in Ulaanbaatar with ominous dark clouds and potential thunderstorm activity, but the forecast looked favourable.

In the afternoon we took off from Ulaanbaatar with two doctors for the two hour and twenty-minute flight.

Near Tosontsengel, we encountered heavy rains and lightning. Fortunately, it was far enough away to not cause any problems for the planes approach or landing.

Cutting it close

We needed to depart again within the hour to make it back to Ulaanbaatar the same day. But on arrival, we found out that the patient was still in the local hospital.

Just as it started looking that we might need to stay overnight at Tosontsengel and delay the flight until the morning, a four-wheel drive came speeding along the rough gravel road and across the bridge leading to the airfield.

The doctors and family members moved the injured boy, with the greatest of care, from the back seat of the vehicle onto our stretcher and into the plane.

His unconscious body was wrapped in a blanket and head immobilised with a neck support.

Hospital transfer

The patient safely loaded and the passengers briefed, we were soon ready to go.  

While radio-operator Baatarsukh climbed into the right-hand seat next to the pilot, I manoeuvred the aircraft ready for take-off.

We had a clear sky ahead and managed to complete the flight to Ulaanbaatar in good time.

On arrival, we were met by an ambulance and doctors, who commended Blue Sky Aviation on a job well done.

Baasandorj was quickly rushed to the ambulance and advanced care.

Why we fly

We learned later that Blue Sky Aviation had been praised in the aftermath discussions on social media and websites - but this isn’t the reason we are flying for life in Mongolia.

The boy was in such a critical condition that the outcome would have been far from certain had we been delayed and forced to stay in Tosontsengel overnight.

Circumstances came together on this occasion to preserve this young boy’s life, enabled by a higher power than MAF.  

When people ask why we engage in activities like this, we tell them we are called to save lives.

Medevacs are one of the important practical ways to convey love and care for the people of Mongolia.

Let us keep on praying that Baasandorj will recover and his life will be saved.

 MAF operates as Blue Sky Aviation in Mongolia.

The name comes from Mongolians own name for their country as the 'land of the blue sky'