From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Unexpected Helicopter lands at Choithramís Hospital
By Aruna Turay
Aug 18, 2010, 23:54

Tensions rose among residents of Hill Station and its surrounding in Freetown yesterday when a white helicopter with HELOG logo landed at the Choithram Hospital Helipad without authority from the hospital management.

According to the German owner and manager Mr. Loohgang Zagel, the helicopter service has been operating in Sierra Leone and other West African countries since 2003, doing clearing and delivering business for various companies and organizations, notably mining and exploration companies.  He said he was contracted by an international company known as the West African Rescue Association to transport some essential drugs that they brought from Ghana for a very sick female patient admitted at the Choithram Hospital in Freetown.  He said he was doing nothing illegal as he followed normal landing procedures by contacting the Aviation authorities and the Office of National Security (ONS) for their landing permit.

He said at 8am on Tuesday 17th August, he applied to these two Government institutions who gave him clearance to land. However, Mr. Zagel stated that it must have been the lethargy of officials of the two Government institutions to communicate their landing to management of the hospital which led them to the embarrassment.

A prominent Nigerian National Chief Tony, who is reportedly the Country Representative for HELOG in Sierra Leone and a business partner to the German earlier arrived at the helipad to receive the aircraft and crew. His presence added to the suspicion that something fishy was being plotted. His vehicle was subjected to thorough searching but nothing inimical was found. He was however invited by the police for further investigation, placed in police custody and driven off whilst the Helicopter itself was sealed off.

Chief Tony told newsmen that he had nothing to do with the arrangement but was only at the scene to welcome the crew members and help them out in executing their assignment.  He was not however able to give much information to the press as he was prevented by CID Police officers from doing so for fear of prejudicing investigation. This further heightened the suspicion of the motive behind the landing.

Chief Tony showing journalists a HELOG Handbook with the Helicopter Company's Owner in the background

The helicopter itself contained special anti-rabies shots and anti-rabies medications from Ghana purportedly for a white female patient by the name of Veronica who was reported to have sustained a dog bite. Her international insurance covered emergency evacuation and swift importation of medical drugs that might not be available in Sierra Leone. Awareness Times was unable to get access to the patient but conflicting information states that she had earlier denied knowledge of any aircraft assigned to deliver medication to her nor flying her out of Sierra Leone. She has been admitted to the hospital since Monday 15th but later discharged after being given local anti-rabies shots. She was driven in from her hotel when the medications arrived. Although many people expressed suspicions, however, the aircraft and crews were thoroughly searched and nothing of police interest was found. Awareness Times journalists in the persons of Dr. Sylvia Blyden and Aruna Turay were also permitted by Police Officers to board the helicopter and witness the search of the aircraft. So also were journalists from Reuters International Television and the SLBC TV Crew.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.