Tourist sues SA pilot after chopper crash
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Pretoria - A young tourist from Rio Negro in Argentina, whose visit to South Africa in 2010 turned into a nightmare when the helicopter she was travelling in crash-landed on a farm on the outskirts of Belfast, Mpumalanga, leaving her with severe brain damage, is claiming more than R24 million from the pilot and owner of the aircraft.
Lola Marlen Schilling, 27, visited South Africa with a boyfriend she had met in Argentina. His father, Robin Garmany, a Sandton businessman, took her around the country in his helicopter.
They left Rand Airport on September 17, 2010, en route to Maputo in Mozambique, when things went wrong and the helicopter crashed.
Schilling is, according to papers before the Pretoria High Court, blaming the accident on Garmany.
She claimed he left Rand Airport without ascertaining the weather conditions along the intended route.
He also did not check the state of the mist and clouds in the vicinity of Belfast and failed to land the helicopter before they hit the mist and low clouds, Schilling said. Garmany should have returned to Rand Airport or any other airport to wait for the weather to improve, she added.
Schilling said Garmany flew through the clouds while he did not have the experience to fly a helicopter in these conditions. He therefore lost control of the aircraft.
Schilling suffered a skull base fracture and was in a coma for several weeks after the accident. She sustained numerous injuries, including subdural haemorrhage and swelling of the brain.
Schilling fractured various of her vertebrae, her hip and ribs and had a laceration to her liver.
She has no recollection of the accident. A medical report stated that she has no recollection of anything “in her whole life, up to the time of the accident”. She does not know where she went to school or where she studied.
She had been wheelchair-bound for months after she returned to Argentina, and received physiotherapy. She is due to undergo several surgical procedures in future.
According to her mother, Maria Angiorama, Schilling’s personality had changed. The mother said when her daughter woke up from her coma after five weeks, “she was a happy girl, but she also had the voice of a child”. Schilling studied tourism and worked in a hotel in the south of Argentina before she visited South Africa.
Garmany, in his notice to defend the claim, admitted he was the pilot of the helicopter. He also admitted the crash, but denied it was because of any wrongdoing on his part.
The matter was postponed indefinitely.