A rescue helicopter, which took off the easternmost islets of Dokdo with an injured person and others onboard right around Thursday midnight, crashed into the sea immediately after takeoff, leaving all passengers missing. The ill-fated chopper was carrying seven people including the patient who had a finger severed while fishing crabs near Dokdo, his friend, and firefighters at the accident. The firefighting authority and the Korea Coast Guard have judged that the chopper submerged into the sea, and have mobilized divers and sonar to search the missing people, but have yet to find them.
The accident is truly sad and lamentable since it has left seven people missing in an accident involving a “doctor helicopter” that went to rescue a patient in emergency. The pilot of the chopper, who braved bad weather and late night flight to rescue an injured person, rescuers, paramedics, and the emergency healthcare system remind us of their meaning. The doomed chopper of the Gyeongsang 119 Special Rescue Squad departed from Daegu Helipad around 9:30 p.m. Thursday at the request of the firefighting authority which had received an SOS message from the Dokdo Defense Police Unit, and arrived at Ulleung Island around 10:50 p.m. The chopper refueled for a long-distance return flight, arrived at Dokdo around 11:20 p.m., before crashing right after takeoff. The EC225 transport helicopter was involved in a fatal accident that killed 13 passengers onboard in Norway in 2016. As a result, experts raised concern over its safety when the chopper was introduced to Korea.
An emergency helicopter is also known as a “Flying Ambulance.” It is designed to provide emergency first aid and transportation of severely sick people from remote places such as islands or mountainous areas where the emergency healthcare system is lacking. The heartbreaking accident reminds anew the passion and sacrifice of people who are armed with strong professionalism and commitment and put the value of life before anything, despite challenging environment. The pilot and co-pilot of the helicopter demonstrated pride and sense of calling for emergency healthcare, as evidenced by sharing on their social media pages of the Doctor Helicopter Revival campaign, which is staged by The Dong-A Ilbo. Park Dan-bi, the only female member of the rescue team, was a rookie in the team. The former emergency paramedic at a hospital achieved her dream last year. She dreamt to become a rescuer after watching brave mission and activities of a rescue team that transported a patient from Baengnyeong Island.
We solemnly pay respect to those people at the frontline of emergency healthcare, who risk their own lives to save others in dire situations, for their invaluable sacrifice. It is the responsibility of all of us to pay more attention to improving the emergency healthcare system that aims to save the lives of people struggling for life, and treat them properly because they are guardians who protect us, our family members and neighbors.