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The SA Air Force carried out a complicated rescue mission on Sunday in the Magaliesberg mountains after a man was hurt jumping into a pool.
The man was airlifted on a stretcher dangling about 30m below a helicopter in one of the more unusual rescues on which the SAAF and Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) have collaborated.
While visiting the pools at Castle Gorge, a 28-year-old man leapt into one from rocks several metres above it.
He hit the water at such an angle that he was badly injured.
Because there was no cellular reception in the area, the man’s friends travelled a distance to call the MCSA, which arranged for the SAAF to airlift him to Netcare Milpark Hospital.
The MCSA announced the rescue on Monday, praising the SAAF for the difficult mission.
The incident happened at about 3pm, but a helicopter from an SAAF base in Pretoria did not arrive until about 6pm as darkness was falling.
The crew had to use night-vision goggles to lift the man out of the gorge on a stretcher. The SAAF did not have available a helicopter equipped with a hoist hook that pulls the injured person into the plane, so the team had to use ropes to attach the man on a stretcher to the chopper.
It travelled for about 500m until it reached a landing spot where the man could be moved into the aircraft.
Vic Rundle, the rescue organiser from the MCSA, watched the mission from the helicopter.
The crew were confident and well trained, he said. The helicopter flew very slowly while the stretcher was dangling below it. What made the rescue so unusual was the helicopter’s lack of a hoist hook.
The crew know how to fly a helicopter carrying a stretcher below it, but in practice they rarely used this technique.
More impressive, Rundle said, was that the crew completed the rescue at night.
The man, who was in severe pain, arrived at the hospital around 8.30pm, but the MCSA were unaware of his condition.
“The most serious of the injuries was a back injury,” said Dean van der Merwe, spokesman for the club. “That’s always a big cause for concern. We’re glad we got him to the hospital quickly.”
The last time someone was hurt jumping into a pool was 18 months ago. Only a handful of rescues each year require SAAF assistance, he said.