SAAF Oryx to the rescue again


An Oryx helicopter from the South African Air Force’s 15 Squadron based at Air Force Base Durban has again come to the rescue of a civilian, medically evacuating an injured seafarer from a ship off the Durban coastline.

15 Squadron was requested by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre to rescue a 70 year old Filipino crewman with a foot injury from the bulk carrier Attalia five nautical miles off the Durban coast. The rescue operation was initiated on Monday morning while the motor vessel was in deep-sea off the Eastern coastline and heading towards her nearest port at Durban.

The rescue was tasked by the Joint Tactical Headquarters in KwaZulu-Natal and carried out in conjunction with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and Netcare medical staff, the South African Air Force (SAAF) said.

Jonathan Kellerman, NSRI Durban station commander, said that at 07:00 on Tuesday 7 July, two NSRI Durban rescue swimmers and two Netcare 911 rescue paramedics boarded the Oryx helicopter. On arrival at the ship, three nautical miles off-shore of the Port of Durban, in three relays, an NSRI rescue swimmer and the two Netcare 911 rescue paramedics were hoisted from the helicopter onto the ship’s deck and a Stokes basket stretcher was lowered onto the deck.

The patient was secured into the Stokes basket stretcher and, accompanied by a Netcare 911 rescue paramedic, he was hoisted into the helicopter followed by the NSRI rescue swimmer and the remaining Netcare 911 rescue paramedic.

The patient, in a stable condition, was airlifted directly to St Augustine’s Hospital for medical attention.

The SA Air Force congratulated the Oryx crew for a successful rescue, which came a week after a 15 Squadron Oryx evacuated an injured soldier from Leslie’s Pass in the Injasuthi area of the Drakensberg. The rescue took place on 29 June with assistance from the Mountain Club of South Africa.

15 Squadron Oryx are regularly used for search and rescue – for example on 6 May a Filipino seafarer was airlifted to Umhlanga Hospital after falling sick aboard the bulk carrier Coral Island off the coast of Park Rynie. In January, an Oryx was used to rescue an injured man who fell down a 100 metre cliff near Pietermaritzburg, and earlier that month an Oryx, supported by a BK 117, was used to medically evacuate five sick crewmembers from a vessel off the Durban coast.

15 Squadron was in action again in April, evacuating a sick patient off the Queen Mary 2 passenger liner off the Eastern Cape coast. And in February, an Oryx from Air Force Base Ysterplaat-based 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.