Three hurt as chop­per crashes at New­cas­tle farm

Weekend Witness - - News - SIY­ATH­EMBA BEN and NAFISA MOOLLA

WITH no thought for her own safety, New­cas­tle res­i­dent Wanda Wil­son rushed to the aid of three peo­ple whose heli­copter crashed on her farm yes­ter­day morn­ing.

The heli­copter, which was on its way to New­cas­tle air­port to fuel up be­fore head­ing to Vil­liers, crashed af­ter it hit pow­er­lines.

The pi­lot, Fran­cois Lieben­berg, who ap­par­ently works for G4 He­li­copters, his brother and a friend were all rushed to New­cas­tle Medi­clinic.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­son, all three are do­ing well.

She told Week­end Wit­ness she was sit­ting in her lounge and re­alised some­thing was wrong when she heard a strange sound coming from out­side her house. “I got up and opened the cur­tain to see the heli­copter lose con­trol and crash.”

Wil­son quickly ran out­side. When she got to the scene, she could smell fuel and was wor­ried about the peo­ple in­side.

“I asked if ev­ery­one was okay. The pi­lot was un­con­scious and the pas­sen­gers were awake, but they were just ly­ing there,” she said.

Wil­son pulled the back door open and un­buck­led the rear pas­sen­ger’s seat belt and pulled him out.

She did the same with the passen- ger sit­ting in front.

“The pi­lot was not re­spond­ing. I couldn’t reach his body, so I slapped him about two or three times on his arm,” Wil­son said, adding that the pi­lot had a head in­jury.

She screamed for her em­ploy­ees to come and as­sist her and they man­aged to pull Lieben­berg out through the bro­ken front wind­screen. She then called the po­lice and am­bu­lance ser­vice.

Af­ter ev­ery­one was out of the wreck­age, Wil­son called her hus­band, a com­mer­cial pi­lot, to ask him how to switch the heli­copter off, be­cause she feared it might ex­plode. Her hus­band di­rected her to switch the main bat­tery off, mak­ing the scene safe. Although her adren­a­line was run­ning high, Wil­son said her main con­cern was the safety of the heli­copter’s oc­cu­pants.

“I just wanted to get ev­ery­one away from the heli­copter. God’s hand was over me. Emer­gency ser­vices were on the scene in record time; I was im­pressed by the re­sponse time,” Wil­son said.

Asked about her brav­ery, Wil­son said that credit should be given to her em­ploy­ees, who helped with­out thought for their safety.

Bray Marié from the South African Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity (CAA) said the ac­ci­dent was re­ported to them yes­ter­day morn­ing. • Siy­ath­emba.Ben@me­


Emer­gency ser­vices per­son­nel at the scene of a heli­copter crash at Grey Goose Farm, New­cas­tle, yes­ter­day. Wanda Wil­son, who lives on the farm, pulled the pi­lot and two pas­sen­gers to safety.

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