The “parabats” as South Africa’s paratroopers are known, appeared to have a “hard landing”. The scene of the accident was too far from the spectators to see clearly but an official said some did not get up.
The Waterkloof Air Show and Lifestyle Expo, a practice run for next year’s major international event, the African Aerospace and Defence expo (AAD), was attended by Digital Journal. Despite the incident involving the parabats, the show, as the saying goes, had to go on.
The 14 were members of 44 Parachute Regiment
, based in Bloemfontein, which is the command and control element of South Africa’s airborne forces, which includes 1 Parachute Battalion and a reserve unit, 3 Parachute Battalion in Pretoria.
A South African National Defence Force (SANDF) communiqué said four paratroopers were “seriously injured” and were airlifted to the nearby 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane, a military district in Pretoria. It said a further 10 soldiers suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital by ambulance.
A later communiqué said the 14 parabats had been discharged and a board of inquiry would be convened to investigate the incident. It was not clear how the paratroopers could be “seriously injured” and then discharged within a few hours. Further inquiries are pending.
The air show itself continued without let up and featured many old favourites. Some of the flypasts had a touch of sadness, such as that of the 1950s-era De Havilland Vampire jet fighter flown by Colonel Rama Iyer. Colonel Iyer flew for the Indian Air Force and then joined the SAAF but retires this year. This was his last air show in the Vampire.
The show continued with the flight of a giant Ilyushin Il-76 heavy lifter from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan flanked by two SAAF C-120 Hercules BZ planes. The Ilyushin managed to make the large Hercules transports look quite small in comparison to its bulk.
The air show also included a “mini war” showcasing the SAAF’s combat abilities and other favourites including the pride of the SAAF, the SAAB Gripen multi-role fighter and the Hawk trainer.