At 15H00 on the 27th January 2013, I got a call from a work colleague, telling me that a friend of hers had crashed his para-glider whilst paragliding in the Noordhoekberge, 17km north east of Graaf Reinet.
The paraglider pilot and two fellow para-gliders had taken off from Valley of Desolation, Graaf Reinet gliding about 30km north east towards Nieu Bethesda. The injured para-glider pilot later told me that he got blown up the valley and over the top of that hill into the lip-rotor. He said the glider just stopped flying and he could see the ground coming up very fast.
I was airborne at 15H19 and arrived on scene at 16H30. The para-glider pilot had been talking to his wife on his cell phone, and fortunately had sent the GPS co-ords where he was lying on top of the mountain. An initial search yielded nothing, so I landed on the Nieu Bethesda Road to ask his flying friend where to search for the accident site. A second search, and we found the accident site.
The terrain was very rocky, so I had to choose a landing site carefully to avoid landing on top of rocks hidden in the long grass. We also could not risk landing too close to the para-glider for fear of the sail ending up in the rotor blades. The accident site was at 5200ft, and with a strong variable wind, made for a tricky landing.
The victim was unable to move. X-rays back at St.Georges hospital later showed a ruptured liver, fractured ribs and pelvis. He was given painkillers via injection and placed on a drip. We carefully rolled him over onto the scoop ready for loading into the helicopter.
I first flew the victims para-glider back down to the main road where his friends were waiting. After returning to the mountain top accident site, we loaded the patient – he was heavy, which made moving him on a stretcher, very difficult in the rocky terrain.
After a quick refuel at Graaf Reinet airport, we routed direct for St. Georges Hospital, landing at 19:42.
The following morning, I was phoned by his wife thanking me for all we had done to airlift her husband off the mountain. Without the crew working alongside me, I would not have been able to do my job in a professional manner, so a big thank you to the Metro EMS crew that were with me. Also a big thank you to Roeland at Graaf Reinet Airfield for being on standby with fuel, much appreciated!
Update on 5/02/2013, the paraglider pilot has been released from hospital and is making a speedy recovery!
Bell Longranger 206L4, Fuel used – 502Ltrs, Flying time (base to base) – 3.4 hours.