Airlink scare: ‘why no medics?’

2011-11-14 00:00

A HILTON resident, Andy Pepperell, who was among the passengers on board Airlink Flight SA 8739 during last week’s controlled emergency landing at O.R. Tambo airport, says no para­medics or ambulance were immediately on standby to help a colleague who had collapsed after exiting the aircraft.

His allegation was denied yesterday by the Airport Company South Africa (Acsa) communications manager at O.R. Tambo, Unathi Batyashe-Fillis.

She said all internal emergency services, including an ambulance with paramedics, and fire crews were deployed.

The ambulance was on standby on the runway when the flight landed, she said.

Batyashe-Fillis disputed that it took “twenty minutes” for the ambulance and paramedics to respond to the plight of the passenger in question.

“He was stabilised by the paramedics and he was taken to the clinic,” she added.

Pepperell said in an e-mail that one of his three colleagues on the plane became seriously stressed in the two hours the plane circled to burn off fuel ahead of the emergency landing and had even lost consciousness before landing.

“We managed to revive him and get him prepared and into the brace position during the landing, and myself and another colleague got him safely down the chute before we exited ourselves.

“We were surrounded by numerous fire crew on the ground and there were indeed plenty of crash tenders attending and very caring emergency crew escorting us away from the scene to a safe distance.

“Good job so far.

“However, our stressed colleague collapsed on the runway and went into serious shock.

“Here lies the problem … there was not one person with any medical training, nor an ambulance, anywhere near the scene of the crash! Unbelievable!

“What if the aircraft had broken up and there were injured people lying all over the runway?

“There were two passenger buses there but no ambulances!

“We stayed with our downed colleague long after the rest of the passengers had been taken to the terminal building by Airlink.

“The fire crews had no oxygen or even a blanket to cover our shocked, shaking and convulsing colleague.

“As I had nothing suitable, my female colleague used her jacket to try to cover our colleague to keep him warm,” he said

“Innes Bester of Airlink … made an urgent radio request for an ambulance, but the one solitary ambulance [still with no rescue or medical treatment facilities on board — not even oxygen] arrived only about 20 minutes later.”

Pepperell joined other passengers in their praise for pilots Harm Kallenberg and Chris van Rensburg and the other members of the crew whose handling of the emergency, he said, was “impeccable”.

For his fellow survivors Pepperell had one message, “Enjoy the rest of your lives!”


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