Oryx evacuates sick crewmember off West Coast fishing vessel


The South African Air Force (SAAF) has once again assisted the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in evacuating injured or sick crew off vessels along the South African coastline.

On 20 November, NSRI ASR (Airborne Sea Rescue) duty crew were activated following a request for medical assistance from a local fishing trawler that was reporting a local adult male fisherman onboard was suffering from a medical complaint.

The vessel, the VSL Umzabalazo, was in deep sea, 93 nautical miles northwest off-shore of Cape Columbine lighthouse, on the West Coast.

Marius Hayes, NSRI ASR station commander, said the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) arranged for a Western Cape Government Health EMS duty doctor to assess the patient in communications that were assisted by the ship’s agent and by Telkom Maritime Radio Services.

It was deemed that the patient needed be airlifted to hospital as soon as possible and the fishing trawler was requested to head towards Saldanha Bay to get into range of a helicopter rescue operation, the NSRI said.

EMS Metro Control dispatched an EMS rescue paramedic to respond to Ysterplaat Air Force Base to join NSRI ASR crew and SAAF 22 Squadron pilots, flight engineer and ground crew who prepared an Oryx helicopter to execute the helicopter rescue operation.

The helicopter, accompanied by NSRI ASR crew and an EMS rescue paramedic, departed Ysterplaat and rendezvoused with the fishing trawler 50 nautical miles offshore of St Helena Bay.

On arrival on the scene, an NSRI ASR rescue swimmer and the EMS rescue paramedic were hoisted from the helicopter onto the fishing trawler and the patient, in a stable condition, was hoisted into the helicopter using a basket hoist procedure and both rescue personnel were recovered into the helicopter.

The helicopter landed at the Groote Schuur Hospital landing zone and the patient was taken into the care of EMS paramedics and he has been transported to a local private hospital by EMS ambulance for further medical care and he is expected to make a full recovery, the NSRI said.

The SAAF said the 22 Squadron aircrew involved in the mission were Major Jan Agenbag (commander), Captain Warren Jobe (co-pilot), and Warrant Officer Frank Boekkooi (Flight Engineer).

The Acting Chief of the SA Air Force, Major General Mzayifani Buthelezi, congratulated the crew on a successful rescue.

Oryx helicopters have been used in numerous land and sea rescues this year, including in the Drakensberg, Cedarberg, and from vessels off the East and West coasts. In January, an Oryx was used to rescue an injured man who fell down a 100 metre cliff near Pietermaritzburg and in February, an Oryx from 22 Squadron was part of a multi-agency search and rescue operation in Western Cape that located two men after their boat sank off Cape Town.