Netcare 911 helicopter ‘broke up in flight’, preliminary probe finds

A preliminary investigation by the SA Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed the helicopter which crashed en path to KwaZulu-Natal final month killing Netcare 911 medics and its pilot broke aside in midair and the impression was “not survivable”.

The Bell 430 helicopter took off from Final Heli heliport in Midrand, Gauteng, heading to Hillcrest Hospital in Pietermaritzburg on January 21. On board had been a helicopter paramedic, two docs and a theatre nurse and 12 bottles of oxygen.

“After roughly 1.5 hours in flight and cruising at 725ft [221m, above ground level], the helicopter began to spin uncontrollably, breaking apart in flight whereas shedding top quickly. The helicopter impacted the bottom and instantly post-impact hearth erupted which destroyed the helicopter. All 5 occupants on board had been fatally injured,” reads the report.

The wreckage was scattered in a 500m radius on the scene of the crash in Winterton.

The report mentioned eyewitnesses travelling on the N3 Freeway in addition to a farmer reported that the helicopter “instantly began to spin round whereas shedding top quickly. The witnesses then noticed what appeared like helicopter elements breaking off earlier than it crashed and burst into flames.

“The witness (farmer) acknowledged that he noticed a crimson and white helicopter spinning round with objects being flung out of the helicopter. The helicopter maintained a south-easterly course however began to lose top quickly. The lack of management continued till the helicopter impacted the bottom and burst into flames simply after flying over the principle highway underpass which crosses the N3 Freeway.”

Objects flung from the helicopter included airframe elements severed by a number of of the helicopter’s predominant rotor blades whereas spinning uncontrolled, in addition to some airframe elements that broke off through the accident sequence.

The Bell 430 had been working in Angola earlier than being imported, in elements, and being reassembled in SA.

The Sunday Times reported that the crash claimed the lives of anaesthetist Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Sia) Mahlangu, and specialist theatre nurse Mpho Xaba, Netcare 911 superior life-support paramedic Sinjin Joshua Farrance, and pilot Mark Stoxreiter, from Nationwide Airways Company.

The preliminary report was compiled primarily based on data gathered through the ongoing investigation and will change as new proof is uncovered.

The investigation continues.