The versatility of rotary-winged aircraft added to the capabilities of SA Air Force (SAAF) aircrew saw a 22 Squadron Super Lynx maritime helicopter successfully carry out the first sea rescue done by the type in South African service.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said the specialist helicopter, of which the SAAF has four to support naval operations, was placed on alert along with the NSRI’s Air Sea Rescue (ASR) and the Western Cape provincial health EMS (Emergency Medical Services) rescue squad on Friday after a request for medical assistance was received. The request was made by a ship’s agent to the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC).
The captain of the 25 metre fishing trawler Iron Maiden suffered a suspected heart attack. A Western Cape Government EMS duty doctor had medically evaluated the patient’s condition, in communications with the crew of the vessel, and it was deemed appropriate to render assistance at the earliest opportunity.
The vessel, sailing from Brazil to Cape Town, was approximately 200 nautical miles offshore of Cape Columbine, on the West Coast, when the alarm was raised. At that stage they were out of range of an immediate rescue operation and MRCC instructed the crew of Iron Maiden to make best possible speed towards Saldanha Bay while medical advice on the treatment of the patient was communicated to the crew by the EMS duty doctor.
The 22 Squadron Super Lynx was tasked to carry out a rescue operation. NSRI stations at Table Bay, Melkbosstrand and Mykonos were all placed on alert.
At around 07h40 on Saturday the helicopter rendezvoused with the fishing trawler off Saldanha Bay 106 nautical miles from its AFB Ysterplaat home base.
NSRI ASR rescue swimmer Ernesta Swanepoel and EMS rescue paramedic Shakira Hartley were both winch hoisted onto the vessel from the helicopter and they found the patient to be in a stable condition, showing signs and symptoms of an MI (myocardial infarction) and medical treatment was initiated.
The patient, a 42-year-old American from Massachusetts, was safely hoisted into the helicopter and he was transported to Ysterplaat and then to hospital by EMS ambulance.
The operation was completed by 09h40 marking the successful completion of the first sea rescue/patient medical evacuation conducted by a Super Lynx in SAAF history.