Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Rand Airport (part one)

Cessna Agwagon Cockpit

Rand airport.

South Africa.

Weed Spraying Season.

I was on finals to land on to an Afrikaners farmers strip, for a days spraying of the weeds in his crops.
As his farm was just about within the suburbs of Jo-burg, I had to notify the police and obtain a clearance from air traffic control at Rand airport to operate within their zone. No worries! they gave me!  "not above 250 feet! making no turns towards the airport."
The Afrikaans  farm strip, was really one of the farm roads, and I had to be careful! as some of the workers didn't look where they were going ! (Bless their little hearts ?)
After touch down I taxied up to the loading area, where strangely enough ! there was no ground crew? We usually started spraying straight away!
This farmer has always used his own men to save on labour cost ! He is one of the many farmer who were made poor due to the continuous drought.
As I couldn't see anybody about, I climbed out of my aircraft to look around, the farm seemed deserted? which set my alarm bells ringing!
I returned to my plane and got my hand gun, I cocked it and carried it a manner showing anybody watching? I had it ready for use, ( as warning)!

I decided to walk up to the house to see what was wrong? as I walked past some farm sheds I heard a disturbing wailing coming from just outside one of the sheds, it was coming from a young Zulu girl, her distressing cries, made me think about running back to the aircraft and getting the hell away from this place.
This is still a very dangerous country; I have witnessed first hand the violence between the local people. It's not something you want to get caught up in.
I tried to speak to the young Zulu girl in Afrikaans and then in English? but she was in a total state of shock and shaking violently, and she also had serious burn type wounds to her hands?
I had to find out what was going on and get help for the Zulu girl, so I moved on to the house, as I got closer the noise  increased to a frightening level, shouting, screaming and crying, and the smashing of things within the house!
I thought a first there was a robbery in progress ? and the farmer was making a fight of it?  I went into the house slowly with my hand gun, I was frightened ! But ready to shoot anybody who needed it?

Everybody appeared to be in one room, I don't know how many people there were? the place seemed to be full of crying, screaming, out of control people, I moved to the centre of the room where a young  frail girl lay on the bed, She looked dead! no more than 2 years old, it was a pitiful sight she had frightful wounds to her mouth and chin her neck, her breast and hands, she had blisters bubbling from her wounds similar to what the Zulu girl had? 
The farmer was in a chair beside the bed shaking and crying in his grief, he had his head down in defeat between his legs! he was inconsolable.
I screamed out in English for "someone to bring me water? now?" somebody placed water into my hands and I poured it into her wounds!  the water entering her wee mouth was passing through and out the wounds in her throat, she screamed when the water touched her, which told me she was very much alive.
I found her mother just staring and crying, I shook her and shouted at her! telling her "she must keep pouring the water on her baby (but not to choke her!) until she saw no more blistering," I watched her and then I asked her to tell me( what happened?) Her chest was heaving with her sobs she continued to pour the water, (a really heart breaking moment,)
She told me that the Zulu girl and her daughter, were playing outside  waiting for the spray plane to come.
It would seem my boss had told them "he was sending the Soti pilot down to do the job" and they wanted to see what a Soti looked like! During their play the young girl ran into the shed and picked up a coke bottle and took a drink from it, before the Zulu girl could stop her! she was seriously burnt,  also the Zulu girl was badly burned taking the bottle from the baby girl, screaming and dropping it to the ground, she picked up her friend and ran to the house screaming and crying ! the mother came running from the house, seeing her baby with blister coming from her wounds she  started crying as well.
I'm sure the parents at the sight of their baby? thought she was dead? and the screaming and crying spread like a virus thoughout the whole household!  nobody seem to know what was happening? it was a mad house!

I had to do something quickly before this feeling of total despair over took me as well?  I asked the mother "if she had called for an ambulance"? The look on her face told me she hadn't and the realisation of what she hadn't done sunk in and she started wailing again.
I went looking for the phone, it was the party line type with the windup handle, nobody seem to know how to use it or any local phone number, (Shit! this was driving me crazy,) the only number I knew in Africa was Boss Terry? so I called him, gave him a quick explanation of the situation and asked him to contact Rand airport and tell them" I will be with them in 15 minutes from now, with a seriously burned baby on board, and I will require assistance on landing,  a follow me vehicle!" to guide me directly to an ambulance, "also as it may be none radio approach? clear my way! "

I put the phone down before Terry could awaken my logic with his sound argument, about the can of worms  I could be opening up! flying into a air traffic zone?  None Radio ? low level? no clearance? in a single seat aircraft with a passenger on board "So whats another reprimand.on my file?
I had made up my mind I was going to do this! It was the right thing to do!

To be continued.

 This memory is not easy to face or live with the emotions it generates.


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