Serious road accident at Lake Victoria – ambulance jet flies rescue mission to Uganda

A tragic accident in the East African country of Uganda results in a young man needing to be repatriated to Germany. The crew of DRF Luftrettung’s Learjet sets off on the 6,000 km journey. Two stops and eight and a half hours later, the two pilots and the medical crew land near the shore of Lake Victoria.
Begutachtung des Patienten am Flughafen
Patient and patient transport ambulance reach the aircraft; Dr Johannes Meyer assessing the patient (Source: DRF Luftrettung)

The 26-year-old, who was working for an aid organisation in Africa, was seriously injured on a private trip when his vehicle collided with a motorcycle. Two people died, including a friend of the patient. The patient sustained fractures and bruising as well as several soft tissue injuries on his torso and limbs, but was able to free himself from the vehicle. The emergency responders that arrived at the scene then flew him to the International Hospital Kampala, where he had surgery to stabilise his arm fractures. 

Ambulanzjet der DRF Luftrettung über Sahara
Agriculture in the Sahara: irrigation systems for growing grain (Source: DRF Luftrettung)
Ambulanzjet der DRF Luftrettung im Anflug auf Karthum, Sudan.
Khartoum, the capital of Sudan (Source: DRF Luftrettung)
Ambulanzjet der DRF Luftrettung im Anflug auf Uganda
Uganda: first impressions on the approach (Source: DRF Luftrettung)

Heading for Uganda

It quickly became clear that it was not possible to properly treat the injuries locally, so a request was sent to the DRF Luftrettung alert center to repatriate the patient to his home country, Germany. ‘Our preparations for a repatriation include medical evaluation and verification, which involves a DRF Luftrettung doctor assessing whether the patient is fit to be transported. In this case, we also needed permissions to fly over and land in Egypt, Sudan and Uganda. Due to the pandemic, the crew needed to provide a negative PCR test result for entry to Uganda, which was taken on the day before the flight,” explained Klaus von der Heydt, group leader at the DRF Luftrettung alert center. 

Lake Victoria on the approach (Source: DRF Luftrettung)
Navigation display in the cockpit: almost at the destination (Source: DRF Luftrettung)
Ambulanzjet der DRF Luftrettung über dem Victoriasee
Lake Victoria on the approach to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda (Source: DRF Luftrettung)

The crew set off for Uganda one day after receiving the request. On board were the captain Miles Bennett and co-pilot Christian Schaub, along with the flight doctor Dr Johannes Meyer and emergency paramedic Nicole Steiert. Their destination was Entebbe International Airport, around 35 km south-west of the capital Kampala. There were two stops planned in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete and in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. ‘Khartoum was a highlight of our journey to Uganda,’ said Christian Schaub. ‘The White Nile and the Blue Nile meet here, which is an impressive sight from the cockpit. The outside temperature of 45°C meant that the refuelling stop was a physical challenge.’

The destination airport in Entebbe, Uganda’s principal international airport, was also something special to behold, with the approach directly above Lake Victoria.

Patient handover and return flight to Munich

The next day, the young man was transported to DRF Luftrettung’s Learjet with the help of an ambulance, accompanied by a colleague from the aid organisation.

‘We collected our patient at 10.10 a.m. local time. His vital signs were stable,’ said flight doctor Dr Johannes Meyer. ‘But it was clear that the incident had had a profound psychological impact.’ Ideal atmospheric and climatic conditions meant that the return transport to Germany could be planned along the ribbon of the Nile with just one refuelling stop in Luxor, Egypt. This saved the patient from having to endure another stop. 

Passing several police checkpoints on the way to the airport (Source: DRF Luftrettung)

Upon landing at Munich Airport

after travelling 5,950 km, the patient was handed over to the crew of a pre-arranged ambulance at 6.35 p.m. and taken to a nearby specialist hospital.


Text: Claudia Ziegler, Christian Schaub (Pilot DRF Luftrettung)

Anflug Ambulanzjet auf Luxor, Ägypten
Approaching Luxor: route for the return flight followed the course of the Nile (Source: DRF Luftrettung)