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There were blinding flashes, followed by peels of thunder. Visibility was almost zero. Our anxiety rose into fear. Suddenly without any warning, our helicopter went into a spin and nosedived into the darkness below. We were so overtaken by fright that we could not even utter a word or say a prayer. in any case, it was too late. There was a deafening crash. The impact was so tremendous that we thought we had been torn into a thousand pieces. I only realized that I was still alive when I felt cold water. The chopper had plunged into the sea. As it began to sink, water was gushing in. I began to grope my way around to find an exit. Although I had my inflatable life-jacket on, I resisted using it lest I became stuck inside the chopper.

It was a great relief when I finally found an opening. I swam through it and surfaced. Then I inflated my life-jacket. Suddenly I heard some familiar voices. It turned out to be the pilot and his assistant. Was I glad to know that they survived the crash. But where were three more of our fellow crew members ? If they had not swum away from the sinking helicopter, they would have been drowned. The three of us grouped together as it would increase our chances of survival. We then took stock of the situation. The helicopter had probably gone down. We were not able to locate our whereabouts in the dark. We decided to stay put until dawn. even then, we had to endure the rough waves, cold rains and strong currents. We gave each other encouragement and clung together throughout the night. We were sure that help would come by daybreak from the search party, or at least from passing fishing boats. We knew that we could not be too far away from the coast.

Despite the life jacket, it was difficult to keep afloat. You would never understand how strong the waves and currents were unless you were there. It was also impossible to keep still. You had to play with the waves and ride along with them. Before long, we were completely drained of our energy. I wondered whether I could survive alone in this ordeal. We talked to keep each other awake. We recollected the good times we had. I was half listening and half thinking of my loved ones at home. I thought of Jasmin. Tomorrow would be her first day at school. Only the previous day, I had bought her a new bag, a new pair of shoes and school uniforms. She was looking forward to my taking her to school. I just wondered how she would feel if I did not reach home in time. I just prayed that help would reach us soon.

We had been on a mercy flight to airlift a seriously injured seaman from a ship some 10 kilometers from the shore. The engineer had been badly scalded by hot oil while repairing the engine of the cargo ship. strong winds made it difficult for the helicopter to fly low and it had to circle the ship several times. By then a torrential downpour had begun and visibility became low. It would be too dangerous to carry on the mission and the pilot decided to turn back. Before we could reach our base, the accident occurred. According to the pilot, the chopper had a good service record and it was equipped with the latest gadget including night-flying electronics. Nevertheless, the lightning might have damaged the equipment and caused the chopper to crash.

We had been in the water for 12 hours when dawn approached. By then the rain had stopped. Despite our exhaustion, our spirit soared. when we heard the sound of a motorboat some distance away, we shouted until hoarse. Suddenly I remembered the whistle attached to our life-jacket. I started blowing it, followed by the others. Our effort was not in vain. A fishing boat soon came in our direction. The puzzled fishermen picked us up and took us to a jetty. A waiting ambulance transported us to the hospital. We were shocked to be told of our injuries. We had chemical burns on our bodies, arms and legs as a result of being immersed for too long in caustic aviation turbine fuel which had leaked from the ill-fated helicopter. Nevertheless our doctor assured us that our conditions were stable. We were indeed lucky to be rescued. I felt like I had been given a fresh lease of life.

Meanwhile the search for the remaining crew members continued with the services of several helicopters, speedboats and navy and marine police. By noon time, there was still no sign of them. Rain had started and the poor weather conditions rendered the search of the missing crewmen and the recovery of the wreckage difficult. I prayed for them earnestly.

From paragraph 1 :
  1.

(a) Why did the writer have to 'grope his way' ?

(b) Why didn't he use the inflatable life-jacket initially ?

   

From paragraph 2 :

  2.

(a) What is meant by the expression 'took stock' ?

(b) Why did the crew members decide to 'stay put' ?

    From paragraph 3 :
  3.

Give two reasons why the crew members were certain of help the next morning.

    From paragraph 4 :
  4.

Explain what is meant by 'a mercy flight'.

    From paragraph 5 :
  5.

(a) How did the crew members react when they heard the sound of a motorboat ?

(b) How did the writer feel

  i. when told of his injuries at the hospital, and

  ii. when told that his condition was stable ?

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Answers
 

1.

(a) It was dark inside the helicopter.

(b) he feared that he might get stuck inside the helicopter.

 

2.

(a) It means 'checked the situation so that appropriate action could be taken.'

(b) They could not locate their whereabouts and it was dark.

 

3.

(i) They knew they would not be far off the coast.

(ii) There would be fishing boats passing by.

 

4.

It refers to an air mission to pick up someone who needs emergency medical treatment.

 

5.

(a) They shouted until hoarse and then blew their whistles to attract attention.

(b) i. He was shocked.

     ii. He felt that he was fortunate to be alive.

 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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