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Preliminary report released on Netcare 911 helicopter crash

SACAA’s statement reads, “Approximately 1.5 hours into the flight and cruising at 725 feet above ground level (AGL), the helicopter started to spin uncontrollably before breaking up and losing height rapidly, before finally crashing.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has released its preliminary findings regarding the helicopter crash in Kwa Zulu-Natal, killing four Netcare 911 medical professionals and the pilot. 

On 21 January 2020, the incident sent shockwaves throughout the country, leaving a gaping wound in the medical sector. At the time of the crash, the helicopter had been en-route to Hillcrest Hospital in Pietermaritzburg to collect a patient. They had with them a total of 12 oxygen bottles, each weighing 6.86kg (total 82.32kg) and each with a capacity of approximately 20 minutes.

SACAA’s statement reads, “Approximately 1.5 hours into the flight and cruising at 725 feet above ground level (AGL), the helicopter started to spin uncontrollably before breaking up and losing height rapidly, before finally crashing. A postimpact fire erupted thereafter, destroying the helicopter. All five occupants onboard were fatally injured.”

Aftermath of the crash in Winterton, KwaZulu-Natal.
Image credit: SA Civil Aviation Authority

The aviation authority explains the Accident and Incident Investigations Division (AIID) of the SACAA was then informed of the incident. 

This resulted in investigations into the matter officially launching with the preliminary report highlighting that according to several eyewitnesses travelling on the N3 Highway and a farmer, the helicopter suddenly started to spin around while losing height at a rapid speed. “The witnesses then saw what looked like helicopter parts breaking off before it crashed and burst into flames.”

Furthermore, SACAA’s report indicates the accident site stretched for approximately half a kilometre from the furthest/first located object of the wreckage and confirmed, the helicopter was destroyed by post-impact fire. The aviation authority further states the aircraft was issued a Certificate of Airworthiness on 30 June 2020 with an expiry date of 30 June 2021.

Moreover, the preliminary report reads, “The three dual hydraulic servos that were removed from the gearbox were attached to a hydraulic rig to test their operation and functionality. The first two servos were tested, and the systems and the piston extended and retracted to their full length of 6 inches. The middle servo could only be tested on one system because the other system had damage on the return line; the tested system also extended and retracted the piston to its full length.”

SACAA stresses the information contained in their preliminary report is derived from the factual information gathered during the on-going investigation. “Later, an interim report or the final report may contain altered information in case new evidence is uncovered during the on-going investigation that requires changes to the information depicted in this report.”

With further investigations pending, let us not forget those who lost their lives in the tragic event; Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, an anaesthetist; Dr Curnick Siyabongo Mahlangu, a cardiothoracic surgeon and Mpho Xaba, a specialist theatre nurse for cardiothoracic and transplant—all from Netcare Milpark Hospital; as well as Sinjin Joshua Farrance, an advanced life support paramedic at Netcare 911, and the pilot of the helicopter, Mark Stoxreiter who worked for National Airways Corporation.

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