The South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx helicopter that crashed on the N1 highway just outside Cape Town on Sunday morning was transporting a helicopter engine when if flew through newly erected wires.
The medium transport helicopter, operated by 22 Squadron based at AFB Ysterplaat, crash-landed and ended up on its side just outside the Huguenot tunnel on the Worcester side.
An occupant of the helicopter said that they flew through newly erected wires at 300 feet before crashing onto the highway, narrowly missing a road resurfacing machine and scattering debris onto the road.
Of the three crew and five passengers aboard, only the aircraft commander received serious injuries, having fractured two lumbar vertebrae. He was admitted to 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town, for further treatment and overnight observation. The co-pilot and flight engineer were discharged, having only received moderate injuries. “All family members walked away without a scratch,” the aircraft occupant said.
South African National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the crew of eight was on a tasking to assist a training team in Touwsriver, near Worcester.Dlamini noted that the passengers were helicopter technicians and mechanics.
The Oryx, tail number 1236, had just participated in the AFB Langebaanweg/Silver Falcons 50th Anniversary Airshow on the Saturday. It was flying in company with an Agusta A109 light helicopter of 15 Squadron, Durban, which also participated in the airshow.
The accident happened after they completed their training assignment and were on their way back to AFB Ysterplaat. The Oryx was also carrying a spare engine for the A109.
The area is well known to the Cape Town based helicopter crew, but it appears that the wire the Oryx hit had only recently been erected in a valley of the Du Toitskloof Mountains.
“Wires are brand new (only put up this week) with no notams [notice to airmen],” the crew member said.
He added that not even the SA Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS) knew about the wires, despite AMS also flying extensively in the area.