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Helicopter pilot a hero

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‘Rapid and outstanding response by the emergency services’

Four people were transported to Gariep Mediclinic after a helicopter owned by a local Kimberley businessman, Peter Hohne. Picture: Soraya Crowie

IN A dramatic emergency landing, a Kimberley businessman, Peter Hohne, managed to save his own life and that of his three passengers when he successfully brought his helicopter to the ground near 3SAI yesterday morning.

Hohne managed to touch down with the landing gear first in a forced emergency landing just outside Kimberley following a private flight to view the flamingos over the Kamfers Dam to the north of the city.

All four occupants of the Bell 505 helicopter were rushed to Gariep Mediclinic Hospital by emergency personnel.

It is believed that they are all in a stable condition after suffering head, back and pelvis injuries.

Hohne’s brother and business partner, Jahn Hohne, said yesterday that Peter had piloted the private flight to view the flamingos at Kamfers Dam.

“Peter’s extensive experience as a pilot probably saved their lives. It is not certain what caused the emergency. Peter managed to bring the helicopter to the ground touching down hard, but with the landing gear first,” Hohne said.

Two colleagues, Rassie Erasmus and Hendrik Stroebel, as well as Greg Watcham, Ground Handling Manager for Diaruk, were on the flight with Peter Hohne.

“They wanted to accompany Peter on the private flight when he went out with the helicopter over the Kamfers Dam to view the flamingos,” Jahn said.

The helicopter, which is believed to be worth around $1 million, belongs to Diaruk, an aviation company owned by the Hohne brothers.

“Peter and the three passengers who flew with him have been injured, but they are all in good hands and communicating well. They were taken to hospital for the necessary treatment,” Hohne added.

“A doctor, who saw the forced emergency landing happening, was on the scene within minutes. We really appreciate all the assistance provided by various people, specifically the emergency personnel who are taking good care of Peter and our colleagues.

“It is impressive how rapid and outstanding the emergency services responded. We cannot thank them enough,” the elder Hohne brother said yesterday on behalf of the family.

The helicopter landed in a ditch next to the boundary fence of 3SAI (South African Infantry Battalion) at around 11am yesterday.

Members of the SA Defence Force stationed at 3SAI were reportedly among the first to arrive at the crash scene after the helicopter came down.

Several Emergency Medical Services, as well as the fire department, arrived minutes later.

The crash was witnessed by a small scale farmer, Deon Sakoor, who herds his sheep on a farm close to the army base.

According to him, he initially did not take notice of the helicopter because, he stated, he often saw it in the sky, flying around the area, to check on Kamfers Dam.

“I realised that something was wrong when the helicopter suddenly took a dip,” said Sakoor.

“I have to applaud the pilot for doing his best to control the aircraft and preventing what could have been a far worse case scenario.

“I have seen the same helicopter before. They often take photographs of the landscape here.”

Sakoor, who is a retired member of the Defence Force, said he “honestly expected the worst” when the aircraft came down.

“But I could see how the pilot was trying his best to control the helicopter. It had unfortunately dropped too low and it landed in the ditch.”

He described how he saw the blades slicing through the bushes as the helicopter dropped lower.

“Then it landed in the ditch with a loud bang.

“Even as I went closer to see if I could help, I kept thinking that the helicopter might explode,” he added.

“It seemed like members of the Defence Force were also monitoring the situation because they immediately rushed to the scene to assist the injured. A doctor also showed up within seconds.”