‘Heroic’ chopper pilot compared with Sewol captain

July 18, 2014
Pictured are the five firefighters killed in a helicopter crash in Gwangju, Thursday. From left are Chung Sung-chul, 52; Park In-don, 50; Ahn Byung-gook, 38; Shin Young-ryong, 42; and Lee Eun-gyo, 31.  (Yonhap)

Pictured are the five firefighters killed in a helicopter crash in Gwangju, Thursday. From left are Chung Sung-chul, 52; Park In-don, 50; Ahn Byung-gook, 38; Shin Young-ryong, 42; and Lee Eun-gyo, 31. (Yonhap)

chopper

Witnesses say pilot seemed to make “desperate efforts” until the last minute to prevent secondary casualties. (YTN – Yonhap)

By Jung Min-ho

Victims of a helicopter crash in Gwangju Thursday are being hailed as heroes, following witnesses’ testimony that the pilot seemed to make “desperate efforts” until the last minute to prevent secondary casualties.

And some people are comparing their spirit of self-sacrifice with the selfishness of the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol, who allegedly escaped from the sinking ship without making efforts to save the passengers.

The firefighting chopper, which belonged to the Gangwon Fire Headquarters, crashed near an apartment complex, killing all five on board. Yet no one on the ground was killed as its pilot, according to many witnesses, maneuvered the chopper as if trying to avoid crowded areas.

“While the Sewol captain deserted the ferry leaving passengers behind, the firefighting helicopter pilot held the controller to the end to prevent more casualties,” Twitter user @jsgn13 said.

“I pray for the firefighters that died after their search efforts for bodies still missing from the Sewol ferry disaster. That is the spirit the ferry captain and politicians should learn,” Twitter user @kennedian3 said.

A female high school student waiting for a bus was injured by shrapnel, but her injury was not life-threatening, police said.

The two pilots started their careers in the Army in 1989. While the captain of the helicopter surnamed Chung, 52, began working at the Gangwon Fire Headquarters in 2005, the copilot surnamed Park, 50, started there in 2009.

The helicopter hit the sidewalk just 10 meters away from crowded areas. The crash spot is just between a middle school and an apartment complex.

It is not yet confirmed that the pilots actually maneuvered the doomed chopper in an effort to avoid buildings as it plummeted to the ground. However, many officials from National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the regional firefighting aviation department believe that the disaster would have been much worse without the pilot’s heroism.

According to Oh Dong-jin, the head of the firefighting aviation squad in South Jeolla Province, pilots are trained to dodge houses and other structures occupied by people when making emergency landings.

He said the pilots seemed to do their best not to cause any secondary casualties, noting that the authorities will have to analyze flight data to determine the cause of the crash.

In cooperation with the Aviation and Railway Accident Investigation Board, the NRMA is examining the exact cause of the crash.

“In this world, there are so many different people, not just people like the Sewol captain. I hope Korea can recover from the pain of the ferry tragedy thanks to the pilots that died a righteous death,” Twitter user @jayhan57 said.

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