The Ministry of National Defense (MND) is considering updating all emergency rescue equipment following complaints from the Air Force’s helicopter squadron after a Sikorsky S-70C-6 Super Blue Hawk crashed on March 26.
The S-70C, the civilian version of the SH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, was about to airlift an ailing Indonesian worker off a ship near Lanyu, also known as Orchid Island, when it crashed into the sea due to crosswinds.
Medical officer Tsai Yi-che (蔡宜哲) was injured and five other servicemen on board are missing presumed dead.
The S-70C is the Air Force’s only helicopter equipped to conduct nighttime search-and-rescue missions at sea.
It is suspected that the crewmembers were knocked unconscious when the helicopter hit the ocean or that they were unable to inflate their traditional manual inflation life vests in time.
Ministry officials said the life vests onboard the S-70C were manual inflation vests because personnel require ease of movement during missions and search-and-rescue operations are usually conducted in water or during rainy weather.
Manual inflation gives personnel freedom of movement as opposed to vests that auto-inflate upon contact with water, which might hamper a mission.
Regulations dictate that search-and-rescue personnel don life vests, be equipped with wireless radios and have spare batteries, beam-lights, sea-dye markers, underwater breathing apparatus and other survival equipment so as to offer a greater chance of surviving in the event of an accident.
Since the crash, the Air Rescue Group in charge of handling the S-70Cs has reassessed which equipment needs to be updated and hopes to but replacements as soon as possible, the official said.
“We are considering updating all current equipment and have plans to purchase more life-safety ropes, hoisting vests and laser lights to aid in search-and-rescue pinpointing,” an official said.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer