François and Chantal Hersen Rescued in Namibia After Glider Destroyed in Crash

RESCUE PROFILE: Chantal Hersen
Chantal Hersen

François and Chantal Hersen are keen glider pilots. Living in France, they have travelled extensively in Europe on their gliding adventures and have had a SPOT Gen3 with a subscription to Extreme Tracking since 2013.

In January 2016 they embarked on four-week adventure in Namibia. From their base at renowned gliding centre Bitterwasser Lodge, they planned to take a glider across the Kalahari Desert.

All seemed fine when they launched their glider however an hour into the journey they suddenly lost control of the aircraft and found themselves in a rapid uncontrolled descent. They were unable to steer the glider at all, and their downward acceleration reached such speed that both wings detached from the body of the plane.

They had to bail out as quickly as possible, and did not have time to press the SOS button on the SPOT Gen3 mounted in the cockpit. Fortunately, thanks to the successful deployment of the parachute they landed safely in the Desert sands, but far from the wreckage of the glider which suffered a high impact crash, completely destroying the glider and the SPOT Gen3 still inside it.

A friend back home had been tracking them via SPOT Gen3's Google Maps interface. When François and Chantal's track had not moved for an hour, the friend realized that there was a serious problem and contacted the team at Bitterwasser Lodge.

Once alerted, Bitterwasser rescue centre staff also tried to locate the pair from their position on SPOT Gen3's Google Maps interface.

François and Chantal spent the night under the stars in the desert awaiting rescue.

At sunrise the following day Bitterwasser crew dispatched a rescue plane to the last location indicated by SPOT Gen3 just before the crash.

The rescue aircraft found the pair with their parachute. Shortly thereafter a rescue car arrived on the scene.

"We were so relieved when the rescue teams arrived early in the morning, because when we landed, it was 43 degrees Celsius and our water supplies went down with the crippled plane." François explained.

While Chantal suffered no injuries, François received such a shock of acceleration when he landed that he experienced a spinal trauma. After spending time in a local hospital in Namibia François and Chantal were flown back home to Toulouse in a special medical aircraft.

François spent the next month with his spine immobilised.

This frightening incident has not deterred the adventurous couple from continuing to pursue their gliding adventures. "One thing we will do differently will be to affix our SPOT device to our parachute in order to ensure it stays with us."

"We will be getting right back in the cockpit as fast as possible and we will be sure to always keep our SPOT Gen3 device close at hand," he added.

They remain enthusiastic about the capabilities of SPOT Gen3 to help out should they ever encounter problems again. "We are so glad that we had SPOT because without it it would have been quite impossible to find us in the Desert," commented François.

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