Dusi chief escapes

2011-02-04 00:00

THE Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon organising committee chairperson, local businessman Cameron Mackenzie, had a lucky escape yesterday when a trip in his gyrocopter ended in disaster.

Mackenzie was checking the state of duckweed in the river, just weeks before the big race is scheduled to start.

He was forced to carry out an emergency landing when the gyrocopter he was flying experienced problems. He escaped unscathed but the chopper was badly damaged.

Unlimited Dusi spokesperson Ray de Vries said Mackenzie was inspecting the effectiveness of their spraying efforts over the last few weeks on the hyacinth-infested Dusi River in his gyrocopter yesterday morning.

The Unlimited Dusi takes place in three weeks’ time.

The hyacinth has been a big worry for the organisers as it chokes up the river, forcing paddlers to run with their canoes for kilometres on end.

De Vries said the weed is also a major safety challenge as it can trap paddlers underwater, causing drownings.

He said of the accident, “After about 30 minutes of flying Mackenzie and his passenger, Deren Coetzer, were headed up the river when the gyro developed some problems. They experienced a drop in power, which prompted Mackenzie to carry out an emergency landing. The only suitable area was a double path amongst bushes and trees.”

While Mackenzie managed to bring the chopper down successfully, the undercarriage and wheels were damaged.

De Vries said, “I heard about it shortly after it happened. Fortunately I was able to jump into a helicopter outside my offices at Virginia airport and head to the crash site. I found a shocked but relieved chairman and his passenger about 20 minutes later.”

He said the men were understandably shocked and had a few bruises, but nothing requiring further medical attention.

“The good news is that the hyacinth is now well under control and the water levels are looking good in the valley”added de Vries.

He said Mackenzie declined to be interviewed by the media.

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