‘Superhero’ saved many lives

2014-07-19 00:00

CAMERON Dalziel sketched comic-quality pictures of superhero characters as he waited for rescue missions in a hangar at Virginia Airport.

Yesterday, friends said it had amused them to note that he was unwittingly drawing “self-portraits”.

“He has saved countless lives all around the world, and done it with skills beyond almost anyone else,” said fellow pilot Hayden Ford.

Having begun his career as a rescue swimmer for choppers patrolling Durban’s beachfront, the former “beach bum” reinvented himself briefly as a stuntman, and then as a helicopter pilot.

Ford said his friend’s air rescue exploits had taken him from the tsunami in Indonesia to the conflict zones of Sudan and Pakistan, bushfires in Spain and the oil fields of Malaysia.

“Cameron was a funny and lovely character; an amazing pilot — he genuinely stood out from everyone else,” said Ford. “He absolutely loved his boys and Reine.”

One colleague said: “He could hover on station next to a [vehicle] on the beach for 10 minutes and nudge a life saver on the shoulder with his helicopter.”

When his friend Neil Noble wanted to propose to his paramedic girlfriend, Dalziel flew them both to a romantic hover over the Ballito’s ocean breakers.

And when that same woman, Valerie Noble, complained of morning sickness in his helicopter, Dalziel immediately landed the craft in an “odd place” — while laughingly delaring that no one was allowed to throw up on his ship.

Friends described one occasion in which Dalziel’s helicopter crash-landed when its tail rotor malfunctioned. While hanging from his harness upside-down in the cockpit, Dalziel read the belated message in the helicopter’s display panel — “Failure detected” and casually reported to his co-pilot: “Apparently a failure has been detected”.

One “rescuer” found him drinking tea under a nearby tree.

Noble said: “So many air rescue people are affected mentally by the trauma they witness, and Cameron has been a counsellor to so many who were having a tough time.”

Mark Easton, a search and rescue volunteer with Rescuetech, said he trained alongside Dalziel. “He was a happy-go-lucky rescue swimmer, and he always stayed the same. It is desperately sad; I was gobsmacked.”

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