Friday, 24 November 2006
Miracle chopper trio home
Henri Du Plessis – Staff Writer
Three friends who miraculously survived when the helicopter they were in plummeted 23 floors after crashing into the World Trade Centre in Sao Paolo have arrived in Cape Town.
“God was with us in our helicopter. There was no chaos – it was so peaceful in the helicopter.”
This is how Richard Horton described the moments in the helicopter before it crashed to the ground in the Brazilian city last month.
Horton had been traveling in the helicopter with Israel Bloomberg and Herman Poelmann. All three were seriously injured and were hospitalized for a month.
The crash made world headlines, with CNN describing their survival as “a miracle”.
Bloomberg, a local businessman, and Horton and Poelmann, both bank officials from Absa, arrived at Cape Town International Airport yesterday. The men, avid Ferrari fans, had gone to Sao Paolo to attend the Brazilian Grand Prix on October 22.
The crash happened when they were en route to their hotel from the Interlagos race track.
They had gone to Brazil to watch Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher take part in his last race, and the trip was a dream come true.
Emotional scenes unfolded at the airport when friends and family gathered to meet the men .
Horton and Poelmann were in wheelchairs and appeared weary. Ambulances waited for them outside and paramedics were ready to wheel them away on trolley beds.
“The day was a dream comes true for us. It was magnificent,” Horton said, a Ferrari flag folded over his knees as he sat in a wheelchair.
“I ran around like a mad thing; flying this flag around. The day ended beautifuly with Fillippe Massa winning the race and we were able to get Michael’s autograph.“
The last person we spoke to before getting into the helicopter was (former Ferrari driver) Rubens Barrichello.”
It was shortly after that when things went horribly wrong. The helicopter was supposed to have landed on the roof of the World Trade Centre, but it came in too low, hitting the building.
“It was so peaceful in the helicopter, Israel (Bloomberg) prayed – I have never heard a man pray like that. God has given us a second chance. He has given us a second chance. He still wants us to do something here.”
Horton and Poelmann said the three had formed a strong friendship as a result of the incident.
“We suffered together. For the first week we were on morphine for the pain and there is still a lot of pain for all of us,” Horton said.
“For the first few days we could not feel our legs and feet. Now we can walk a bit, but it is still painful. The hospital was the best we’ve ever seen and the surgeons were great.The people from the consulate were also great.”
Horton’s wife, Lauren, and his young son , Richard , were at the airport to meet him, while Poelmann’s wife, Avra was supported by close family friend Taswell Papier.