During a hectic festive season, the Eastern Cape Health Department’s new emergency helicopter flew close to 74 hours and covered 8 443km in 24 rescue missions.
Department spokesman Siyanda Manana said the emergency calls attended to were for road accidents, drownings, search and rescue operations, and the transfer of patients between hospitals.
The air ambulance is based in Port Elizabeth and services the Nelson Mandela Bay and Cacadu regions.
The introduction of three helicopters to the province’s emergency medical services was part of the goals set by Health MEC Pumza Dyantyi for the first part of her tenure.
The helicopters were put into operation just before the festive season. The other two air ambulances are based at East London and Mthatha.
They are equipped with an oxygen ventilator and will fly a paramedic and an assistant.
The air ambulances will cost R34-million over three years.
The air ambulance based in East London is bigger than the other two. It has a more powerful engine and can fly as far as Aliwal North and Sterkspruit.
The rescue missions undertaken by the Port Elizabethbased helicopter included the search for the bodies of two children who drowned in a remote dam near Uitenhage just before Christmas.
The helicopter was also called out at the request of Netcare EMS to rescue a tourist who was seriously injured after falling off a horse.
Other drownings responded to included incidents at Swartkops River, Beachview, Van Stadens Resort, Jeffreys Bay and Wells Estate.
In their latest call-out on Sunday, paramedics were rushed to help nine occupants of a vehicle that overturned near Kinkelbos after a tyre burst.
All nine were thrown from the car when it rolled. One occupant was airlifted to Livingstone Hospital for emergency treatment.
Last week, the helicopter was called out to airlift a crew member aboard The Seagull who had suffered a suspected stroke while at sea.