Air mercy crash plane 'was on hold'

By Francesca Villette Time of article published Aug 17, 2015

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Cape Town - The Namibian medical emergency plane which crashed in Durbanville on Sunday had been instructed to remain in the air because a technical glitch at Cape Town International Airport affected arrivals and departures.

No one could confirm how long the E-Med Rescue 24 plane had waited to land before it crashed on the Maastricht Wines farm on Sunday morning. The plane left Oranjemund Airport in Namibia at 4am and was scheduled to land three hours later at Cape Town International Airport.

Metro Emergency Services received reports of the crash at 7.15am.

Patient Gabriel le Roux, 80, his daughter Charmaine Koortzen, 49, Namibian pilots Steven Naudé, 53, and Amore Espag, 23, as well as paramedic Alfred Ward, 24, died on impact.

They were flying from Namibia to Cape Town to get treatment at Panorama Hospital for Le Roux, who had fallen and injured his head on Saturday night.

ER24 spokesperson Werner Vermaak said the plane was in a holding pattern. Planes go into holding patterns when they can’t land at their scheduled times for whatever reason. They then have to circle until they are given permission to land.

 

Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) reported a “minor technical glitch”, which resulted in a sequence of departures and arrivals at the airport being affected.

ATNS spokesperson Percy Morokane said once flight sequencing was affected, flight departures and arrivals were bound to be delayed.

Vermaak said the ER24 flight desk had been alerted that the plane was affected due to the glitch. “It is understood from the Airports Company SA (Acsa) that all aircraft approaching Cape Town International Airport at the time were placed in a holding pattern due to a technical fault with their radars.

“The E-Med Rescue 24 aircraft was also in the holding pattern at the time. We lost contact with the aircraft approximately 11km outside the airport,” Vermaak said.

Morokane could not confirm or deny on Sunday whether the plane was part of the holding pattern, and denied that the crash had anything to do with the sequence of departures and arrivals.

“As ATNS we are required to provide a report of what transpired, and that includes communication between the pilot and our (air traffic controller) on duty, and any other related information to such an authority,” Morokane said.

Le Roux was visiting Koortzen in Oranjemund when he fell and injured his head.

 

Vermaak said Le Roux was a member of the De Beers Benefit Society and was stable enough to be flown to Cape Town to be treated.

 

The plane went off the radar at 6.50am on Sunday morning.

At 7.15am a crash on the hill was reported to the emergency services. At 8.03am it was confirmed that there were no survivors.

The son of the owner of Maastricht Wines farm, Thys Louw, said they were alerted to the crash when authorities knocked on their door at about 9am. Their house, the closest to the scene of the crash, is about 1km away.

“It was extremely misty and windy outside. We heard or saw nothing,” Louw said.

City Fire and Rescue Services were the first to arrive at the scene.

Spokesperson Theo Layne said once firefighters had extinguished the small fire caused by the crash, they handed the scene over to the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and the police.

SACAA spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said authorities were investigating.

A friend of Espag, Alice Huang, on Sunday posted on Facebook that Espag was planning to get married next month. “May you rest in peace, Amore Espag. You’ll always be in our hearts – remembered for the lovely, enthusiastic person you are,” Huang wrote.

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Cape Times

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