One missing as port helicopter crashes

Sep 3, 2005
Author: P&S

A helicopter engineer on board the Port of Richards Bay helicopter is missing, feared dead tonight after the helicopter in which he was working crashed off the port entrance in about 26m of water.

The accident occurred shortly after midday today (Saturday) as the helicopter was lifting or preparing to lift a marine pilot from the departing ship off the entrance channel. From eyewitness reports, which have not been confirmed by the port authorities, it appears the helicopterís rotor blades came in contact with a part of the ship, causing a total loss of control. A strong wind was blowing at the time.

Eyewitnesses said there was a loud bang with parts flying loose in the air before the helicopter dropped straight into the sea. According to a statement issued this afternoon by the National Ports Authority, there were three people on board, a marine pilot, the helicopter pilot and a helicopter engineer, thought to mean the winchman.

The marine pilot and helicopter pilot have been rescued and were taken to the Bay Hospital in Richards Bay where their condition is regarded as stable.

A search and rescue operation was immediately set up to look for the missing engineer and the helicopter. By nightfall this evening neither had been located and the search will resume in the morning. In the meantime the port of Richards Bay has been closed to all shipping until further notice.



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