An Oryx medium transport helicopter from the South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) 15 Squadron was instrumental in medically evacuating a patient from the passenger Queen Mary 2 off the Eastern Cape coast.
According to Jonathan Kellerman, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Durban station commander, after 17:00 on 2 April, the NSRI stations in Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban were placed on alert following reports from the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) that a 58 year old British man required medical evacuation off the Queen Mary 2 following a non-coronavirus-related medical emergency. The vessel had left Durban less than 24 hours before after taking on provisions and dropping off six people.
A Western Cape Government Health EMS (Emergency Medical Service) duty doctor had spoken to the ship’s medical team and it was deemed necessary for the patient, suffering from chest pains, to be evacuated to a hospital as soon as possible.
At that stage the ship was approximately 20 nautical miles off-shore of Morgans Bay, on the Eastern Cape coastline, and after investigating options the MRCC re-routed the ship to head in a direction towards Durban and an SA Air Force Oryx helicopter from 15 Squadron, NSRI Durban rescue swimmers and a Netcare 911 ambulance services rescue paramedical team were activated to prepare for the rescue operation 216 nautical miles South West of Durban.
At 19:00 the Oryx, carrying four SAAF crew, two NSRI rescue swimmers and three Netcare 911 rescue paramedics, departed Durban.
On arrival at the ship, at 21:36, in challenging conditions with 25 knot North Easterly winds gusting to 34 knots and two meter swells, an NSRI rescue swimmer and two Netcare 911 rescue paramedics were hoisted onto the Queen Mary 2 and they received the patient from the ship’s medical crew and the patient was secured into a Stokes basket stretcher and hoisted into the helicopter.
The NSRI said he was airlifted to a hospital in Durban, arriving at the hospital at 23:38, for further medical care.
The SA Air Force flight crew was Lieutenant Colonel Nhlakanipho Zungu (Commander), Major Altaaf Sheik (co-pilot) and Flight Sergeant Lazola Vumazonke (flight engineer).