Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bluehawk down

Last night an ROC Air Force Sikorsky S-70C Bluehawk rescue chopper on a night rescue operation crashed into the sea about forty-eight nautical miles southeast of Orchid Island. Her crew of six except Sergeant Tsai Yi-jer, a medic who was thrown overboard into the water and saved by a fishing boat nearby, were still missing. They are Major Lu Cheng, the pilot; Captain Hong Shih-hou, co-pilot; Lieutenant Chen Bing-hong, medical officer; M/Sgt. Yeh Ming-deh, senior flight engineer; and M/Sgt. Chen Jun-hong, a paramedic. A full-scale air and sea search for survivors was immediately launched after the crash.

This helicopter and its crew were elements of Air Force’s Air Recue Group stationed at Chiayi Air Base. According to air force authorities, Major Lu and his crew were on a mission to save a sick Indonesian sailor working on a Taiwanese fishing boat. Equipped with night vision, their aircraft passed all inspections and was fine for undergoing rescue mission at night. High ranking officials of Air Force pointed out that green light was given following all standard procedures. The true cause for this accident is still pending for further investigation.

Air Force’s Air Rescue Group, known nationwide as “Seagull Troop”(海鷗部隊), is a unique outfit specializing in all sorts of rescue missions. Since its formation in 1950, the “Seagull” has been conducting numerous difficult rescue missions saving thousands of lives. In 921 Earthquake 1999 and Morak Typhoon of August 2009, their helicopters with conspicuous red-cross marking are the only hope for those trapped in disaster areas. Of course, all rescue missions contain unexpected danger; nevertheless, the gallant crews still risk their lives moving on to save others. And sometimes, sacrifice has to be made to get their job done.

To the men and women of the Air Rescue Group, you are the true heroes, and I salute you.

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