Joined: May 08, 2005 Posts: 1078 Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 11:53 am Post subject: Sth African Air Ambulance Crash - 4 Killed
Air ambulance crashes, killing 4
Cape Town - Four people died when a Red Cross helicopter crashed near Uniondale in the Western Cape, the SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service said on Monday.
The Eurocopter BO105 helicopter crashed on Sunday night with a patient and three aircrew aboard. The wreckage was found at first light on Monday.
"The SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service air ambulance aeroplane and a helicopter based in Knysna located the burnt-out wreckage of the organisation's BO105 helicopter near Haarlem (near Uniondale) just after first light this morning," spokesperson Susann Elphick said.
"There were no survivors and the cause of the crash is not yet known."
Elphick said the helicopter was dispatched to Haarlem at 18:15 from George Airport to airlift a patient involved in a car accident to Lamprecht Clinic in George.
"Our information is they departed Haarlem for George at 19:50 with the patient on board. A radio call was received at approximately 20:20 from the helicopter but no communication was received after this. The flight from Haarlem to George normally takes approximately thirty-minutes (approximately 100km)," Elphick said.
SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service general manager John Stone added a ground search by Metro EMS and Mosselbay Fire and Rescue was launched at 23:00 and continued throughout the night.
"I'd like to express my sincerest condolences to the families concerned on the loss of their loved ones," Stone said.
An aerial search was conducted at first light on Monday.
A Red Cross Pilatus PC-12 plane was dispatched at 04:20 and a Red Cross Eurocopter B2 "Squirrel" helicopter was dispatched at 06:00 from Cape Town International Airport.
The Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre also activated two Eurocopter EC120 helicopters to join the search.
The BO105 was stationed at Oudtshoorn in June to provide helicopter emergency medical services to critically ill or injured patients in the Karoo region.
It is the first time in the thirty-nine year history of the SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service such a crash has occurred.
Joined: May 08, 2005 Posts: 1078 Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 3:19 am Post subject:
Mercy-flight bodies stuck on mountain
George - What should have been a flight of mercy turned into a tragedy on Sunday night when a Red Cross helicopter with three crew and a young, injured American girl flew into a mountainside and burst into flames.
Nine-year old Medicine Miller of the United States, volunteer medical crewman Carlos Julius of Mossel Bay fire and rescue, Red Cross flight paramedic Paul Alexander, 26, of Glencairn and Red Cross pilot Jeremy Wood, 36, of Pietermaritzburg, died in the crash.
By late afternoon, bad weather prevented their bodies from being brought down off the mountain.
The crew took off in the Red Cross BO105 helicopter from George Airport about 18:15 on Sunday to pick up Medicine, daughter of Jeremy and Rita Muller, who had been seriously injured in a car accident.
Crashed minutes afater takeoff
The Toyota Condor, in which the Millers were travelling with the girl's grandmother, Colleen Miller, and great-grandmother, Dorothy Thomson, all of the US, had a tyre burst and ran off the R62 at Haarlem near Uniondale in the Langkloof.
The adults were slightly injured and taken to George by ambulance. It was decided that it would be better to transfer the injured girl to hospital by helicopter.
It was a decision the family was to regret because, only minutes after the helicopter had taken off, it crashed into the side of a mountain in the dark and burst into flames.
It remains a mystery how the accident happened. Many emergency rescue workers who congregated near the R62 to decide on a plan of action, could only speculate about what had gone wrong.
'There was no mist'
John Mathys, a farm worker who saw the car accident and then saw the helicopter taking off, said there was no mist on the mountain on Sunday night.
"I watched the helicopter take off. He flew towards the mountain, instead of straight towards George - that way, along the road, " he said.
"There was no mist, but sometimes the mist comes over the mountain right there."
Pieces of the burnt-out wreckage of the helicopter were spread across hundreds of square metres in the burnt veld.
The tail was lying to one side, while the crumpled and burnt fuselage came to rest much lower down the slope.
Just a fragment with red paint showed that it had been a Red Cross helicopter.
Police who were airlifted to the crash reached the wreckage after an hour's hiking across the rugged terrain.
They found no signs of life: one of the bodies was still recognisable, the other three burnt beyond recognition.
Back in George, the ambulance staff realised there was something amiss when they arrived at George Hospital to find the helicopter was not yet there. They tried in vain to make radio contact.
By 23:00, a search-and-rescue team comprising members of the metro emergency medical services and the Mossel Bay fire-and-rescue unit started combing the uninhabitable slopes for the missing helicopter. But, in vain.
The search was resumed at first light on Monday morning. A Red Cross Pilatus PC-12 and a private helicopter belonging to the Pezula golf estate in Knysna followed the signal emmitted by the missing chopper's black box and found the wreckage.
Bodies stuck on mountain
A police convoy with rescue teams in 4x4s followed a dirt road up the mountain to Haarlem Dam, where the road ended. From there, it took another nine hours of hiking to reach the wreckage.
By late afternoon, after the State pathologist had been to the scene, the rescue teams could start gathering the remains of the four victims into bodybags.
But bad weather stopped a police helicopter from taking the bodies down the mountain. The retrieval will continue as soon as weather permits.
Miller and his wife were too upset about their daughter's death to talk to the media on Monday afternoon.
Captain Eddie Cronj?? said they were "heart-broken".
"They were in tears when I spoke to them, and couldn't face talking to the media.
Alexander, who recently started working in George, is survived by his wife, Olivia, and two children.
Olivia, who is pregnant with the couple's third child, is a volunteer at the NSRI in Simonstown.
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