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Cessna 414 survivors found in desert

albicilla RSS / 08.08.2010. u 09:27

Three people who survived a plane crash in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana have been rescued, after the pilot and a companion walked for four days to get help.



(Written by albicilla ten years ago and never published)

"The situation was hopeless. Our plane, South African registered Cessna 414, was losing height uncontrollably and our pilot, Costas Marcandonatos, made a decision to land somewhere in the bush of the northern Botswana," MIKE NIKOLIC, Gaborone businessman, told Economic Times.

"Besides the pilot, there were four of us on board: my friend, Gaborone businessman Nebojsa GRAHOVAC and his Johannesburg business partner Carl du Plessis, my wife, Lynette, and me. It was the Wednesday afternoon, 1st of March 2000.

Through the window I saw a herd of elephants running away scared by the plane. Inside, the speedometer showed 180 km per hour. Lynette was praying, Nebojsa nervously cursing. The pilot lowered the wheels and then hit a tree, causing the wing to fall off. I lost consciousness and I can’t remember the next minute or so.

When I come to, the first thing I saw was that the plane had no roof. Fire has cough the kerosene covered Cessna. Lynette has some trouble releasing the safety buckle of her belt, so I helped her, and we quickly left the plane to find Costas and Carl outside – but where was Nebojsa?

We went back into a plane, found him unconscious and somehow managed to pull him out which was not an easy task. He wasn’t able to help us and his more than 100 kg didn’t made the operation any easier. Ten seconds later, the whole plane was burning.

Carl and Costas had bruises, I broke one rib; Nebojsa broke three ribs and fractured vertebra, but Lynette was in the worst condition: she has severe 3rd degree burns on her hands and legs. At that moment, however, we could only feel the pain of broken bones, which and how many we didn’t know. Only Lynette’s burns were obvious. But we survived the crash, and were lucky to be alive!

We didn’t have any water, food or first aid kit, but we weren’t worried: we were sure that rescuers would be there in an hour or so. We started a fire, but only too soon the night fell. It was a quiet night; we were discussing our whereabouts by the fire when we realised pilot didn’t know where we were. That didn’t worry us either at the time: we expected rescuers the next morning.

In the morning, Lynette was in pain, but we had no way to help her. While some of us were trying to collect dew from the trees, others put an airplane tire in the fire. Smoke was thick and black, but attracted no-one. Finally, we realised we must have been far off course and decided to send the fittest for help. Carl and Costas went north believing that they’d reach Nata-Maun road after 25-30 km. We weren’t aware of the fact that the closest inhabited place was Gweta, 50 km away - but in opposite direction. Actually, we were north of Nata-Maun road already and the first village north of us was Kazungula, 300 km away.

I had to stay by Lynette and Nebojsa to keep the fire burning and help them the little I could."

The other survivor, NEBOJSA GRAHOVAC, continued the story with a sad smile oh his face: "We woke up early, around four o’clock. Because we were in pain, we didn’t sleep at all. We didn’t have anything to eat and I enjoy eating very much but I didn’t even think about food; I did not feel hungry at all!

During the midday heat, we buried ourselves into the sand, because deeper from surface the sand was a bit wet. Mike kept the fire burning; I couldn’t bend to grab the dry branches, but I searched our immediate surrounding for water. And water…, that was the real trouble! Without water I had hallucinations: I saw people where there weren’t any, I asked for beer, for Coke, to go to the room…"

MIKE NIKOLIC took over: "There was a bit of rain on Thursday afternoon, and we managed to collect maybe a glass or two. By Friday, however, we were exhausted, and Lynette’s burns were infected and getting worse. The Saturday was the worst day of all, though, Lynette was now in critical condition. All that time we didn’t hear a single plane.

We knew that in such a rich rainy season there must have been animal waterholes around, but the first rule in the book is to stay by the wreck – a plane itself is bigger and much easier to spot then thin humans in the vast woodland. Those waterholes attract predators, too. Lastly, the bush looks all the same and it is easy to get lost and never find a wreck again."

NEBOJSA GRAHOVAC remembers: "The greatest moment was on Saturday, when we found water in between some trees. Oh, we were happy! We used the body of a Zippo lighter to extract water.

Yet, the worst experience was the fact that we definitively had no control over our own lives. I mean,  we are not naive and we are able to survive in various conditions, but here very little depended on us. We didn’t have much influence over our own survival.

That was very hard for all three of us because we are used to creating a path in front of us even when there was none, and now it was like standing in front of a wall and not being able to get over it. I considered the idea that we could try to get somewhere, but Lynette’s condition didn’t allow us to do so. It was a vast uninhabited area - no people, no houses, nothing. I simply couldn’t accept the fact the only way out was to be found by rescuers. Being dirty like I’ve never been before and not being able to swallow even saliva, I felt like a total zero."

MIKE NIKOLIC continues: "By Sunday, all our hope was lost. Only numerous elephants were around us, no planes, no people. We were exposed to strong forces – the strongest of all: Nature itself. Not being able to find water, having nowhere to sleep, only trees and sand, not controlling the situation – hopeless!

And then, in the late afternoon, I heard a sound. An airplane! Could it be…? At the time we weren’t aware that Carl and Costas reached Mukutsi Camp that morning and that this plane was really looking after us.

If the help didn’t come, Sunday night would have been the last one, for Lynette at least. By that time her burns were badly infected and she was in fever and pain. Nebojsa and me could have made another day or two, but that’s it. Nebojsa was still in the state of shock, hallucinating, suggesting: ‘Lets go to the village and rent a car...’ But the hardest thing for me was to see my wife and Nebojsa in such a condition and not being able to help them.

After all we had endured, though, I couldn’t give up hope; deep inside I believed that we’d be saved. Sunday night was the longest of all. Time was slowly passing and every now and then either Nebojsa or Lynette would ask me what the time was. And the time was… endless.

Monday morning by the fire, I looked for at least a drop of water to force Lynette and Nebojsa to brush their teeth and refresh themselves. I used to shake dew covered tree branches over Lynette to refresh her, and I assured them both that this was the day, that today we were going home. In the state of shock, both of them believed me.

I lighted a cigarette and threw everything we had onto the fire to make the smoke as thick as possible, as visible as possible. And YES, there it was, a helicopter! I waved, yelled, and the helicopter went by.

Did he see us!? If not, the pilot would report that this sector was covered and there was nothing in it. And in a day or two, it would be true.

We could still hear the helicopter engine in the far distance while we were discussing if we had been seen or not. Lynette was happy: ‘Did he see us?’ ‘Yes, he did,’ we replied. But deep inside, I wasn’t that certain. I thought: ‘Oh Lord, please don’t let this to happen!’

I was lying on my back, listening to the silence, hoping to hear the helicopter, but in my condition, even the mosquito buzzing would have sounded to me like a helicopter engine. Suddenly… The mosquito was too laud!

It seemed like someone was walking toward us. I run into the bush maybe 500-700 m, and started to yell to attract attention. I COULD HEAR THEM!!! And they could hear me! There were seven of them, the magnificent seven: two Police officers, two Med Rescue guys, two Botswana Defence Force pilots and one Civil Aviation pilot.

Lynette received help first, then Nebojsa and me got some vitamins, painkillers and chocolate. Lynette got new energy, Nebojsa felt better. We were saved. The date was Monday, 6th of March (2000).

And now, after two weeks, I think it’s a great experience, it has changed my point of view. My life is       different, I think a lot of what is primary and what is secondary, what means more to me, what’s important, what’s not, which way should I go. I’ll commit myself more to my family and try to enjoy every day as a gift from God. I’ll enjoy simple things, a glass of water for instance. Materialism is losing its stand with me. This experience made my relationship with Lynette even stronger, and it made us stronger. I believe that whatever happens to you, there’s a reason for it, and I believe that this suffering will bring more happiness to our lives."

NEBOJSA GRAHOVAC concludes: "It seems certain that a lot will change in our lives, I think differently now. I have to respect this glass of water I am able to drink, this piece of bread, whatever, and to be thankful for it. Somehow this experience got me down to Earth. There will be other consequences. It’s a bad memory, but what’s important is we’re alive!"

Nebojsa GRAHOVAC is currently recovering at his home. Lynette Nikolic is recovering in a hospital in    Johannesburg, undergoing an extensive plastic surgery. Her husband Mike is by her bedside.


Komentari (10)

Komentare je moguće postavljati samo u prvih 7 dana, nakon čega se blog automatski zaključava

mlekac mlekac 14:33 08.08.2010


Ipak se si nakanio da je okacis!!!
albicilla albicilla 20:56 08.08.2010

Re: ...


Ipak se si nakanio da je okacis!!!

ne znam ni sam zasto
blogovatelj blogovatelj 15:57 08.08.2010

Svaka čast...

Posle ovakvog iskustva sve je lepo u životu.
Preporuka za tekst.
albicilla albicilla 20:57 08.08.2010

Re: Svaka čast...

Posle ovakvog iskustva sve je lepo u životu.
Preporuka za tekst.

da, bezmalo stvara iluziju da posle kise uvek dolazi sunce...
blogovatelj blogovatelj 21:18 08.08.2010

A hrana?

Sta ste jeli, ako ste uopste jeli, svo to vreme dok ste cekali Godoa?
albicilla albicilla 21:23 08.08.2010

Re: A hrana?

Sta ste jeli, ako ste uopste jeli, svo to vreme dok ste cekali Godoa?

ja, srecom, nisam ucesnik, samo novinar (u stvari urednik novina koje nikada nisu izasle, jer je dosao sumar i sve nas isterao), a jeli su... uglavnom nista. pili su.... sopstveni urin
blogovatelj blogovatelj 22:26 08.08.2010

Re: A hrana?

a jeli su... uglavnom nista. pili su.... sopstveni urin

albicilla albicilla 22:28 08.08.2010

Re: A hrana?

a jeli su... uglavnom nista. pili su.... sopstveni urin


jeza, da
strenum strenum 21:58 08.08.2010


Ovakvi dozivljaji promene zivot zauvek.

albicilla albicilla 22:03 08.08.2010

Re: Preporuka

Ovakvi dozivljaji promene zivot zauvek.

nisam siguran, rekao bih, kako - kome

jednom sagovorniku sigurno jeste, za drugoga - sumnjam



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