SA pilot's death has hampered police rescue capability

2015-04-10 20:57
A picture of friends Mike O'Donnell, left, and Frans Haasbroek, right. (Supplied, Frans Haasbroek)

A picture of friends Mike O'Donnell, left, and Frans Haasbroek, right. (Supplied, Frans Haasbroek)

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Durban - The death of SA Police Service helicopter pilot Mike O’Donnell has severely hampered the rescue capability of the police’s Air Wing in KwaZulu-Natal. 

O’Donnell was killed in a helicopter crash in Zambia, while ferrying a civilian chopper back to South Africa.

The veteran airman was the only police pilot certified to fly dangerous and technical rescue missions – and his death may have widespread ramifications.

Three well placed police sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that the airborne capability of police in the province was now non-existent.

The police Air Wing based south of Durban have four helicopters as their disposal.

Among them is a Robinson, which is understood to fulfil an observation and search role.

Other airframes, including a squirrel and BO105 are traditionally used for rescue missions that require technical flight and the use of hoists.

While a handful of pilots remain on duty at the unit, none are certified to fly two police helicopters that are used for dangerous rescue missions.

A source said: “With Mike gone the ability of the police to perform rescues has been reduced to zero. One of the pilots there is doing her conversation to fly the squirrel but she still needs to fly 100 hours under supervision. Even then, she and the others are not certified to fly rescue missions.”

This was corroborated by all of the sources contacted by News24. 

The KwaZulu-Natal SAPS could not be immediately reached for comment. 


Read more on:    police  |  durban  |  air crashes

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