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R30m for tourist in SA chopper crash

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Independent Newspapers

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Pretoria - A young tourist from Argentina, left with severe brain and spinal damage when a helicopter crash-landing ended her great South Africa adventure, is to receive more than R30 million in damages.

A curator appointed to act for Lola Marlen Schilling, 28, instituted the claim in the Pretoria High Court against the pilot and owner of the helicopter, Robin Forster Garmany.

The matter was settled last week with Garmany’s agreeing to pay Schilling $2.7m.

This in addition to the R2.9m allocated to her earlier as an interim payment.

The money is to be paid by the company through which the helicopter was insured.

One of the stipulations of the settlement agreement is that neither Schilling nor her family may disclose the details.

Court papers said Schilling, who was a tour guide in Argentina and a part-time professional ballet dancer, came here in September 2010 with her South African boyfriend - Garmany’s son - whom she had met in Argentina.

Garmany sr, a Sandton businessman, took her around the country in his helicopter. They left Rand Airport on September 17, 2010, for Mozambique, but things went wrong and the helicopter crashed on a farm in Mpumalanga.

In court papers, Schilling blamed the pilot for the accident, saying he had left the airport without ascertaining what the weather conditions would be along the route.

Garmany sr should have turned around when they encountered mist and low clouds and should have waited for better weather conditions, she said.

The matter was settled before it went to trial, so the court did not pronounce on whether Garmany sr had been at fault.

Schilling has no memory of the accident or of her life in Argentina before it.

Her mother told doctors who compiled a medical report for the court that her daughter was taken to hospital after the accident and remained in a coma for six weeks.

She had a severe skull fracture, several vertebrae, her hip and ribs were broken, and there was a laceration to her liver.

Schilling is to have several operations.

In papers, Schilling is described as having been a brilliant young woman. Since the accident, although she is not like a child, she has needed round-the-clock care.

The accident has not affected her ability to speak several languages.

Her mother, a single parent, has had to give up her professional art career to look after her daughter. She is devoted to Schilling and spends her days putting her daughter through her rehabilitation programmes.

Her mother told doctors that her daughter was changed completely by the accident. She had been self-sufficient, travelled the world and dreamed of becoming a first-class ballet dancer.

She was super-fit, highly trained and danced part-time for extra money.

Since the accident she required 24-hour assistance.

A doctor who assessed Schilling said she was happy all the time.

“She has no past, she cannot remember.”

One leg is shorter than the other, and Schilling has lost the hearing in her right ear.

She cannot read novels as she cannot remember what she read a couple of pages earlier. She can read short stories only.

Schilling cannot remember things and carries a diary around with her, crammed with pictures and memorabilia she has pasted into it.

Doctors say she will not be self-sufficient or able to work again.

Pretoria News


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