SAAF helicopters to the rescue


Rotary-winged aircraft from SA Air Force (SAAF) squadrons in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal were major components of recent rescue operations.

AFB Swartkop-based 17 Squadron dispatched one of its Oryx medium transport helicopters to the Magaliesberg in the North West on receipt of an emergency call from Netcare 911 to SAAF Operations on Saturday.

According to Netcare, an adult woman slipped while climbing, fracturing an ankle. First on the scene, in inclement weather, were the Mountain Club of SA, Off-Road Rescue Unit, Mogale City Fire and Rescue and Oostermoed Protection Services.

At the fall scene rescuers found the patient in severe pain and suffering hypothermia. The extreme nature of the terrain and safety considerations saw a decision taken to call on the SAAF. The patient was stabilised while waiting for the Oryx to arrive. She was safely hoisted into the workhorse aircraft and flown, with an advanced life support paramedic on board, to a hospital for treatment and further care.

Another call for SAAF assistance came from the Durban station of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) two days earlier.

An Oryx from 15 Squadron at AFB Durban, currently, the lone aviation occupant of what was Durban International Airport, was tasked to evacuate a 33-year-old Chinese sailor with “a serious medical complaint” from a bulk carrier off Port St Johns. He is understood to have suffered a heart attack.

In addition to the SAAF, further support for NSRI Durban in the medical evacuation was provided by three of its rescue swimmers and three Netcare 911 rescue paramedics.

The helicopter, its three-strong flight crew and rescue personnel rendezvoused with the motor vessel about 150 nautical miles south of AFB Durban.

On arrival they encountered a three metre swell and winds gusting to 29 knots. The conditions were taken into account at all times during both the deployment of paramedics and a swimmer and the subsequent return to aircraft with the stabilised patient in a Stokes basket stretcher.

The patient was subsequently safely delivered to a Durban hospital for further treatment and care.