Chopper crash survivor recounts ordeal
Kobus Pretorius, Die Burger
Cape Town - A passenger on board the helicopter that crashed at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Wednesday has told how he thought they would all die as the Robinson R44 Raven II lost power.
“There was a deathly silence. All that I could think about were my wife and children,” said Terry February, who miraculously survived the crash along with the pilot, Henry Graham, and fellow passengers Petri Germishuys and Joubert Swanepoel.
The pilot tried to do an emergency landing on Cross Campus Road at UCT, but the helicopter crashed.
The passengers were all employees of the engineering company BKS.
February, a photographer, was taking pictures of the Graça Machel hostel on the lower campus when the helicopter suddenly lost control.
“I wanted the helicopter to hang in the air but the pilot flew in circles above the hostel.”
February said the pilot struggled to get the helicopter to stay in one place and it flew lower and lower.
“The cabin was shaking badly."
The helicopter then flew in the direction of Rhodes Memorial and made a U-turn in the direction of the highway.
February said it felt as if the helicopter suddenly lost power.
“The helicopter completely lost control and started freefalling. We lost height very quickly and I thought we would crash on the highway.
“On the way down, the helicopter’s rotor chopped tree branches. Everything happened so quickly. Everything was out of control.
"I thought these were my last seconds on earth. All I could think about were my wife and children. It was a frightening thought.”
February said there was a deathly silence among the four on board.
“We all knew something was wrong.
“The helicopter’s rotor hit the ground first and came to a stop on its side. Fuel was spraying everywhere. I thought the helicopter would explode and desperately tried to untie my safety belt.”
February described his close call as extremely scary.
“I’m still struggling to figure out how we all managed to walk out alive.”
Guy Leitch, editor of the SA Flyer magazine, said it was unlikely that a mechanical fault or a strong wind had led to the emergency landing, believing instead that it may have had something to do with the fuel supply.
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said an investigation into the incident had already been launched.