Long distance rescue by 15 Squadron, 22 Squadron also in action


Treacherous weather and several hundred kilometres of rough flying did not stop the SA Air Force (SAAF) in the form of a 15 Squadron Oryx from executing a successful maritime medevac off Port Elizabeth.

The medium transport helicopter, based at Air Force Base Durban on the site of the former Durban International Airport, was summoned to airlift a patient with a serious leg injury off the crude oil tanker Babylon on Friday 14 August.

Jonathan Kellerman, NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) Durban station commander, said: “On Friday, 15 Squadron, NSRI Durban rescue swimmers and Netcare 911 rescue paramedics were activated to evacuate a 36-year-old Indian crewman, suffering a serious injury, off a 330 metre crude oil tanker near Port Elizabeth.

“NSRI Port Elizabeth was on alert since Friday morning and remained on alert with duty controllers monitoring the entire operation.

“A SAAF 15 Squadron Oryx helicopter, accompanied by two NSRI Durban rescue swimmers and two Netcare 911 rescue paramedics, departed AFB Durban with arrangements for refuelling at East London and Port Elizabeth.

“After refuelling in East London, on arrival at the ship, off Algoa Bay, in calm sea conditions, the rescue swimmers and rescue paramedic were hoisted onto the vessel with a rescue stretcher.

“The patient, in a serious condition with a compound leg fracture, reportedly sustained in a fall, was taken into care from the ship’s medical crew.

“Secured into a rescue stretcher the patient was hoisted into the helicopter accompanied by a rescue paramedic.”

“The rescuers were hoisted and recovered into the helicopter.”

He was brought safely aboard the helicopter and delivered to St George’s Hospital for further treatment thanks to good airmanship and winching skills of the flight crew (commander Colonel Zungu, co-pilot Major Sandi and flight engineer Flight Sergeant Vuamzonke) according to the SAAF.

The Oryx refuelled at Port Elizabeth’s 15 Squadron, Charlie Flight, base and on the return route to Durban refuelling took place at East London.

Further down the Cape coast another Oryx, this one from AFB Ysterplaat’s 22 Squadron, on Sunday 9 August rescued ten hikers from Bainskloof between Ceres and Wellington after they became trapped on the wrong side of a swollen river.

The helicopter, under the command of Major Agenbag with co-pilot Major Strauss and flight engineer, Warrant Officer Usher, performed the rescue in two separate sorties. The first saw two hikers hoisted and landed safely before the aircraft returned for the remaining eight hikers.