Palm Copter Crash: Female pilot in ICU; GCAA probe

A private helicopter crashed near Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeirah on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo courtesy: Al Bayan)

Helicopter tours from Atlantis, Jumeirah Palm, are not taking off, after a private helicopter crashed on Wednesday while taking off from the hotel at the Palm Island in Dubai.

The tours have been suspended until January 27, the hotel confirmed. The helicopter ride was operated by Alpha Tours, the travel agent which offers commercial helicopter tours in cooperation with Atlantis, the Palm from the premises of the hotel.

Alpha Tours has confirmed with Emirates 24|7 that it was a female pilot manning the controls at the time of the crash. A Rashid Hospital staff confirmed the crash victims had been brought to the emergency yesterday, adding: “Of the two injured, the female victim has been moved to the ICU ward now, while the Indian man is still in the emergency unit undergoing treatment.

“It is too soon for us to comment on their conditions as yet, but the female had to be moved to the ICU following her condition.”

At the point of the crash, the helicopter was occupied by the pilot and the assistant, both of whom are undergoing treatment for their injuries in hospital at the moment, Alpha Tours told Emirates 24|7. The helicopter was not carrying any tourists, and it was taking off from the hotel base when the accident happened, the tour operator confirmed. 

When Atlantis was contacted by Emirates 24|7 as a customer asking about the helicopter tour, we were told that there are currently no helicopter rides taking off because there is no available aircraft. When asked whether this had anything to do with the accident that took place yesterday, no further information could be provided. The same reply was given when asked about the involvement of the hotel in the crash.

“We can confirm that an accident happened on the Palm Jumeirah. An investigation is in progress to determine the circumstances and causes relating to the accident this afternoon (yesterday). No civil passengers were on-board the helicopter. The pilot and his assistant are being treated for injuries,” reads the Alpha Tours statement.

The private helicopter crashed on Wednesday, and Police moved the two injured persons by rescue helicopter  to Rashid Hospital. Concerned authorities are investigating to determine the cause of the accident. Their nationalities are not yet known.

"A private helicopter with two people on board has crashed while taking off from Palm Jumeirah, they sustained moderate to critical injuries," Dubai Media Office tweeted just after 6pm on Wednesday. 

"Police rescue helicopters moved the two injured persons to Rashid Hospital & the concerned authorities are investigating the incident," it tweeted after a few minutes.

Ambulances, fire trucks and helicopters were seen rushing to the scene of the accident while traffic issues on roads were reported by Twitter users.

Eyewitnesses who were at Atlantis, The Palm during the crash took to social media to comment, with one saying the incident occurred shortly after the helicopter took off, around 4pm.

The helicopter crashed into a parking lot near the helipad where it had taken off, creating a loud bang that had onlookers rushing to the crash site.

It is being reported that the pilot sustained serious head injuries, while the other passenger appeared shaken, but unharmed as per accounts.

In a statement, the General Civil Aviation Authority has said: “The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) initiated the investigation in the air accident crash that occurred yesterday at The Palm Island Jumeirah, Dubai.

“The helicopter was reported to have crashed shortly after takeoff.

“GCAA’s preliminary report indicates that the helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff with two persons on board, one with critical injury. Both persons were transferred to Rashid Hospital for immediate medical aid. GCAA’s investigators are currently investigating the reasons behind the crash.”

The statement further added that Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, GCAA Director General, said the causes of the accident are still unknown. The full report will be made public once the investigation is over.

Al Suwaidi added that GCAA acquired a great deal of knowledge and experience in dealing with air accident investigation over the past years and it will utilise all this experience to secure UAE’s skies.

On the website of Alpha Tours, the operating heli pilots are featured in a special section about the helicopter tours. On one of the pages, the travel agent elaborates:

“Although highly experienced, all helidubai pilots undergo regular training. Helicopter manufacturers as well as well as commercial companies provide the courses.”

A training manager and instructor at Alpha Tours writes: “Instructors simulate emergencies with various scenarios to test our abilities in adverse situations. These sessions are important. It gives all of us an opportunity to really test the helicopters away from the passengers.

 “These extra skills then translate into every day situations, should we be required to draw on them.”

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