Chopper crash survivor recounts ordeal

2011-08-05 09:39

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.

Lost control

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.”

Deathly silence

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.

  • JohnDough - 2011-08-05 10:06

    WTF? "Guy Leitch, editor of the SA Flyer magazine, said it was unlikely that a mechanical fault......may have had something to do with the fuel supply." No fuel supply leads to a mechanical fault....engine failure!

      tryanything - 2011-08-05 10:16

      Chinese Helicopter????

      Observer - 2011-08-05 10:34

      I would imagine he means a mechanical fault in that something broke - it could have been the fuel line became blocked. Semantics at the end of the day I suppose.

      morentebo - 2011-08-05 10:35

      he said There was a deathly silence.I would have screamed my lungs out probably fainted before it lands

      Airborne68 - 2011-08-05 10:40

      No Tryanything, that would be called a "Hairycopter".

  • Ruff-ian - 2011-08-05 10:07

    So I'll be seeing them in church in Sunday then

  • Baddy - 2011-08-05 10:08

    Shame man, I'm so glad you all got out of this experience alive. All the best to all of you

  • Ayobaa - 2011-08-05 10:18

    A happy ending for a change and u must be grateful you lived to tell the tale...Now that's Ayobaaaaaaa!

  • Jy Kannie - 2011-08-05 10:28

    Not fuel, not engine, just pilot failure. @tryanything Robinson are USA made helicopters, and surprisingly very reliable. Nobody has mentioned how many hours (total time as well as hours on type) and and what type of license the pilot had. Fuel load is being reported as over 3/4 with 4 people on board, not particularly smart.

      Kwagga88 - 2011-08-05 13:03

      What worries me is that a engine less helicopter can land safely because of auto-gyration...Hope the pilot knew that..

      Baddy - 2011-08-05 13:26

      Im sure he knew that, because you have to do that as part of your license. The problem is that if there is nowhere for you to go you are going down hard. A heli does not glide like a fixed wing airy. They drop quite quickly.. And if you do not have an open field close to you, you are going to hit hard.

      Grazy - 2011-08-05 18:07

      A helicopter cannot fly, it just beat the air into submission.

  • zulufox - 2011-08-05 10:37

    perhaps it landed at UCT because the pilot must take more flying lessons ... I think :)

      jowza - 2011-08-05 10:44

      bo that would be a technikon

  • Phil K - 2011-08-05 10:43

    Um... isn't the fuel supplied to the engine mechanically, or were they using the new wireless fuel teleportation method? Loss of power when you're in the air = mechanical failure. Glad they all survived though. Any landing you can walk away from, is a good landing!

  • swatcoloured - 2011-08-05 11:10

    scratch helicopter crash of the todo list as checked.

  • Darryl - 2011-08-05 11:16

    Amused by how the media publish a statement by the "Editor" of SA Flyer. Wow, with no actual information he makes a claim like that. Come now people let the CAA do what they are paid to and which they do very well. In a couple months you can read the actual findings on their site. Leave the pilot alone, it could be a number of things that caused this crash. All survived so well done to the PIC regardless. If the pilot made a mistake the so be it, we all make mistakes. So much so that they have given it a name - human error.

  • Damduiker - 2011-08-05 12:53

    Henry, die Here kyk mooi na sy kinders.

      Henry - 2011-11-25 17:11

      Dit is so. Groete vir jou. Almal het comments en is baie slim. Henry

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