The crash-landing of a medical plane in the Apuseni Mountains has generated heated controversies over the rescue mission, the quality of the plane and the pilot’s decisions. Survives have been rescued by local farmers and mountain rangers. “We owe our lives to the pilot”, doctor Radu Zamfir said.
One of the victims was Adrian Iovan, an experienced and well-known pilot. The other victim was a 23-year-old female officer-student from the Military Medical Institute in Bucharest, who was undergoing a training stage at the Fundeni Hospital. While Iovan died two hours after the crash, the student died fairly late, the rescue crews finding her in cardiac arrest, having multiple fractures, traumas and severe hypothermia. Apart from the two victims, there were another four doctors onboard – Radu Zamfir from the Fundeni Hospital, Valentin Calu from Elias, Catalin Pivniceru from ‘St. Mary’ Hospital and Sorin Ianceu from the Municipal Hospital in Beius, Bihor County. The medical team was supposed to take the liver of a donor who suffered a cerebral stroke. Razvan Petrescu, the copilot of the plane, is in a critical condition, having suffered massive hemorrhage. Doctors Valentin Calu, Catalin Pivniceru and Sorin Ianceu are in a medium to severe condition, having multiple fractures according to SMURD. They were all taken to the Emergency Hospital in Cluj. Dr. Radu Zamfir, who suffered the lightest injuries in the crash, was released from the Cluj County Hospital and transported to Bucharest.
One of. the survivors, doctor Radu Zamfir held a press conference, shortly after his return to Bucharest. Visibly marked by the accident, the medic said that the five survivors owe their lives to pilot Adrian Iovan. He recounted the ordeal of the accident and the rescue operation, avoiding pointing fingers towards anyone for the lengthy rescue operation. He said” “You (journalists) say it lasted six hours, for me it was like half an hour”. He said that he tried to resuscitate the pilot, who lost consciousness half hour after the crash, and later on he tried to keep alive the female student.
He admitted that he was very lucky to be safe and sound, escaping with some minor injuries because he was wearing a motorcycle suit.
The BN-2 light aircraft left on Monday afternoon from Bucharest to Oradea and was allegedly forced to crash-land in a rough mountainous area at an altitude of over 1,400 meters, at the administrative border of Cluj and Alba counties. One of the doctors who were onboard managed to call 112 at 4.16 PM and to report the incident. At that moment all passengers were alive. Rescue crews found them six hours later.
A local forest ranger and two villagers reached the crash site before the rescue crews and tried to help the injured, giving them their own clothes and making a fire to keep them warm. Gheorghe Giurgiu, one of the locals, told Mediafax yesterday morning that when he reached the crash site he heard the injured crying in pain, one of them having both of his legs broken. The villagers built a stretcher out of pieces of wood and a blanket in order to carry him. According to him, the injured were outside the wreckage and the pilot was trapped under the airplane which was lying overturned in half a meter of snow.
Florin Mihut, the head of the Vladeasa Mountain Rescue, admitted that the rescue operation “was real madness,” and the “big luck” was that locals participated in it. Mihut said the area was not usually visited by tourists, was inaccessible and the searches were rendered difficult by the layer of snow and extremely low visibility. He added that neither he nor the teams he coordinated were in touch with the victims, and were only receiving information from 112. Marius Pop, one of the members of the Transylvania Offroad Club which took part in the search and rescue operations, stated that they lacked “very clear coordinates” of the crash site, so that they ended up verifying a different place twice because “nobody really knew anything.”
Controversy over locating crashed airplane
The public opinion consequently wondered why locating the crash site took so long. Adrian David, the head of Sibiu Mountain Rescue, explained for RFI that a phone call is identified with difficulty in a mountainous area, even if the area has a phone signal.
DCNews writes that one of the passengers tried in vain to activate the GPS system on his mobile phone. According to the aforementioned source, the Special Telecommunications Service (STS) was unable to identify the crash site on the basis of the mobile phone because in sparsely populated areas mobile telephone towers are located at very large distances, covering 600-700 square kilometers. Moreover, the plane’s transponder can only be detected if the airplane is at an altitude of over 1,000 meters. Because of that, ROMATSA was unable to pinpoint the plane’s exact position. “The first 112 call was received at 4.16 PM and came from the Vodafone network; the call was instantly located, the information being immediately sent to all emergency structures,” STS officials stated for HotNews.ro, in reply to the accusations that they erroneously located the crash site.
Responding to the wave of criticism on the lack of rapid response, the MoD said thatthe military helicopters were unable to fly to the place of the accident because of the bad weather.
Journalists went even further on the trail of the subject concerning the localization of the call. HotNews journalists discovered that Teamnet International is the supplier of two critical emergency situations services such as the air crash in the Apuseni Mountains. Thus, Teamnet is supplying the search and rescue mission planning and coordination software to ROMATSA (the Romanian Air Traffic Services Administration), and the GIS map localization software for the 112 service managed by STS. In 2009, the date the contract with ROMATSA was awarded, Teamnet was part of Asesoft Group whose majority share package is owned by Sebastian Ghita. Starting off from this data, PSD Senator Sorin Bota accused ROMATSA of having up-to-date software worth millions of Euros. “They probably purchased them to be able to justify the payroll. Many “public fund shredders” are guilty here,” the Senator said.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta asked Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea yesterday to present, by Wednesday’s government meeting, a report about the way in which each institution acted during Monday’s search and rescue operations after the air crash took place in Cluj County, the government informs. The information will be transmitted to the Premier in order for the activity of each institution involved to be analyzed and appropriate measures to be taken during the government meeting.
Aleodor Francu, president of ROMATSA, did not comment on the emergency software, but he mentioned the results of the investigation will be made available within 30 days, adding technical difficulties have not been ruled out. According to the press, the crashed plane was rather outdated. The Britten Norman Islander BN 2A-27 model, the only such model still used by the Civil Aviation School, was manufactured in 1977 and last underwent a technical revision one month ago, on December 20, 2013.
However, Victor Zota, national transplant coordinator, told HotNews.ro that they have been under contract with the Aviation School for over 12 years, underlining the aircraft had been used hundreds of times in medical transports without encountering difficulties. When asked why a more modern and upgraded aircraft – which the press claim is being kept on the ground in an air shed – was not used, the national transplant coordinator replied that particular aircraft is used in other situations. The aviation school and the pilots decide whether an airplane can fly under certain weather conditions, he underlined. In turn, Raed Arafat, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health and founder of SMURD, explained for PRO TV News that the SMURD ultrafast upgraded aircraft used in humanitarian transports is currently under revision at Aerostar Bacau because it is missing a part.