SAAF Oryx used to rescue man who fell off KZN cliff


A South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx medium transport helicopter was used to rescue an injured man who fell down a 100 metre cliff near Pietermartizburg.

ER24 paramedics, Life Healthcare, SAPS Search and Rescue and DUT Rescue were alerted after a man fell and slid down a cliff in the Swayimane area of KwaZulu-Natal, ER24 said, and immediately began to search the area.

“After some time, the man was found near the bottom of the cliff. Despite their best efforts, medics and rescue personnel were unable to reach the patient. A military rescue helicopter was called to the scene for further assistance. A rescuer was lowered down to the patient, who then assisted in hoisting the patient into the hovering helicopter,” ER24 said.

Once the patient had been rescued, an ER24 advanced life support paramedic was picked up to treat the man for his serious injuries. The man was airlifted to Greys Provincial Hospital for further care.

The incident comes a week after a 15 Squadron Oryx, based in Durban, was used to medically evacuate five crewmembers from a vessel off the coast on 7 January. The Oryx was supported by a BK 117 from 15 Squadron’s Charlie Flight in Port Elizabeth in coordination with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

The Oryx landed on the BOKA Vanguard Heavy Lift Vessel, which was carrying the Petrobras 70 oil and gas vessel from a shipyard in China to Brazil. The injured crew were airlifted to a hospital in Durban. SAAF helicopters often work with the NSRI, under the coordination of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, to rescue seafarers, with SA Air Force Oryx and Lynx helicopters used several times in 2019 to assist or airlift crewmembers.

SAAF assets are deployed on four internal operations, including Operation Prosper (support to government departments, mainly the police), Operation Chariot (disaster aid and humanitarian relief), Operation Arabella (search and rescue) and Operation Corona (border safeguarding).

According to the Department of Defence, in support to the people of South Africa, in the domains of humanitarian assistance, the SANDF in the 2018/19 financial year responded by providing helicopter assistance to conduct medical evacuations in Cape Town, Lydenburg and the Howick mountain ranges. Helicopters assisted in the fighting of bush fires by delivering bambi buckets of water in the Tsitsikamma area, Eastern Cape, Western Cape (Hermanus, Betty’s Bay, Grabouw and Gordons Bay).

In the most recent financial year, disaster relief assistance was provided by means of two A109, two Oryx and a PC-12 aircraft to Malawi and Mozambique, as a result of Cyclone Idai floods. Search and rescue tasks were conducted during which casualty evacuations of the critically ill crew and a sick sailor were transported to nearby medical facilities from vessels in South African territorial seas during two incidents. Search and rescue for a downed aircraft in the Richards Bay area, KwaZulu-Natal and the evacuation of a survivor of a light aircraft crash in the mountains near Makhado, Limpopo were also conducted in 2018/19.