A South African Air Force Oryx helicopter crashed on Sunday, in a part of the country I know well. The reason for the crash illustrates one of the hazards of flying in what is now, sadly, a third world environment.
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.
. . .
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.
There's more at the link.
I've traveled the old Du Toits Kloof Pass and its successor, the Huguenot Tunnel, many times. It's pretty rugged country. The passengers and crew are very lucky the helicopter crashed on the road, rather than in the rocky, mountainous terrain around it. Here's a video clip of the old pass, to show you what I mean.
I also remember No. 2 Military Hospital, less than favorably . . . I spent 40 days there recovering from an injury in 1976. It was no fun at all. However, at the time, most of its buildings were so-called "temporary" wooden barracks left over from World War II. Comfortable, they were not! They were replaced by a modern hospital some years ago, which was recently upgraded.
I think the people aboard the helicopter are very lucky to be alive. I wonder what will happen to the contractor(s) responsible for putting up the wires without notifying air traffic control? That's a well-known helicopter route, particularly for air ambulances. The Oryx just happened to be the first to use it after the wires were strung - with predictable results.