Fri, Jun 15, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Rescue helicopter crash’s sole survivor goes back to work rescuing flood victims

By Tsai Tsung-hsun  /  Staff reporter

Medical officer and crash survivor Tsai Yi-che poses for photographers in Chiayi County yesterday.

Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsun, Taipei Times

The sole survivor of a Sikorsky S-70C-6 helicopter crash on March 26 has recovered from his injuries and is now taking part in evacuation efforts in Taoyuan District (桃源) in Greater Kaohisung, but he still hopes for a miracle for the other five members of his crew.

The S-70C, a SH-60 Black Hawk helicopter modified for civilian use attached to the 455th Wing, the Air Force’s medical rescue unit, was about to airlift an ailing Indonesian worker off a ship near Lanyu (蘭嶼), also known as Orchid Island, when it crashed into the sea, either because of headwinds or mechanical failure.

Medical officer Tsai Yi-che (蔡宜哲) was injured, while the five other servicemen are still missing.

Tsai yesterday said that the event was still very vivid in his memory, adding that the helicopter had already arrived at its designated spot and was about to commence the rescue when it stalled and dropped from the sky.

“The world went spinning for a few moments and by the time I regained consciousness I was already underwater,” Tsai said, adding that he manually inflated his life vest after swimming to the surface.

Despite being disoriented and feeling slightly dizzy, Tsai said he tried to search for the other crewmembers, but to no avail, adding that afterward he swam toward the ship that was their target.

“I swam for about five to 10 minutes before I was pulled out by the ship’s crew,” Tsai said, adding that during hospitalization he kept asking if the missing servicemen had been found.

Tsai said he was very depressed by the lack of good news, but because of his quick recovery, he returned to duty after only a week’s rest.

Tsai participated in efforts to rescue trapped residents in the Taoyuan District of Greater Kaohsiung, one of several areas affected by torrential rain in recent days, logging four flights on Wednesday alone and rescuing three groups from the area.

Commenting on his luck in surviving the crash, Tsai said he quickly came to terms with it and that it has given him a new outlook on life.

“I love my job. It’s challenging and meaningful. I felt no fear heading out on rescue missions after my accident. Instead, I feel joy that I can continue to save people. When I see the smiles of disaster victims, I feel that everything I do is worth it, and this is a job I could do my whole life,” Tsai said.

As for his missing comrades, Tsai said that he kept hoping for a miracle that would return the five of them safe and sound.

Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer

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