The Namibian (Windhoek)

15 November 2012

Namibia: Misfortune Follows San Lifesaver Hero

Photo: khomanisan
File photo.

CGUNTA Khao//khao, the San man who narrowly escaped death in a veld fire in August, had another close call this week when a Cessna 206 in which he was to travel back to Windhoek was involved in an accident.

Khao//khao was flown back to his village Nhoma near Tsumkwe last week to visit his family. He is still recovering from his burns in a Windhoek hospital, but his doctors allowed him to leave temporarily because he was feeling homesick.

He sustained serious burns in August when he and other colleagues of his rescued a tourist from a veld fire which engulfed them.

Three of his colleagues died of the injuries sustained in the fire, and Khao//khoa sustained severe burns on his entire body. The Australian tourist survived the fire.

Khao//khao has been in a Windhoek hospital since the fire and was getting very depressed. Doctors suggested that Rudi and Marlice van Vuuren of the N/a’an ku se Foundation, who have been looking after him since his hospitalisation, take him to Nhoma so he could see his family.

They flew to Nhoma on Saturday and left Khao//khao with his family, but the Van Vuurens, a family friend and their two children continued their journey to Tsumkwe as there are no overnight facilities at Nhoma. They were to return on Monday to take Khao//khao back to Windhoek.

On Monday morning when they returned Rudi van Vuuren, the pilot, came in too fast for the landing and the plane hopped into the air four times before hitting the ground with its nose first and flipped over.

“With each bounce the plane went higher and higher and after the fourth bounce I saw the ground coming closer as we were heading for it. The plane then hit the ground and we fell over and there was nothing I could do,” Van Vuuren said.

The three adults and two children sustained cuts and bruises but no serious injuries. Van Vuuren then had to run about three kilometres to the Nhoma village for help. When he arrived at the village he was informed by the San that there is only one place on the dune where there is cellphone reception. He and a San man then went in search of a signal and once they found it Van Vuuren used the San man’s phone to SMS Tsumkwe for help.

After that he returned to the wreck and gave medical attention to the passengers.

A vehicle of Namibia Country Lodges had in the meantime arrived and took the people back to Tsumkwe.

“We were sitting on the open game vehicle bandaged and bleeding, driving to Tsumkwe on a dirt road for about one hour,” said Van Vuuren.

Marlice van Vuuren was then flown back to Windhoek with an SOS flight due to her injuries and the rest of the people were taken back to Windhoek by another plane.

“We are very lucky that the plane did not catch fire, as it was full of fuel, or that no one was seriously injured,” said Van Vuuren.

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