The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #27241 Message #3534823
Posted By: GUEST,George-Luc Pridieux
07-Jul-13 - 05:50 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Flight 641 (Lawrence Hammond)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Flight 641 (Lawrence Hammond)
I am a retired pilot and flew many missions into North and East Africa with Secorra Plarres-Montes in the early and mid-1970s. Several of these were in Sierra Leone, 5 or 6 were into Uganda and were evacuation missions (1972 and 73). Two of the last I flew with her and her team were into Northwest Sudan. These were not intended to be for the purpose of evacuation, although as it happened, we did sometimes end up taking out some ill or wounded children. On the last of these in Sudan, we received a message that bandits were closing in on the airstrip where we had been conducting a clinic for the prior 3 days. This was before the days when the present Islamist regime was hiring the Janjaweed militias to do their ethnic-cleansing for them, so these guys were just tribal criminals intent on robbery. We scrambled very fast to get our supplies loaded onto the aircraft and were taxiing out onto the strip when the bandits rode in on their horses. As I recall, a few shots were landing around the airplane and people from the settlement were running alongside the plane hoping to climb on. I was told afterwards that a woman was trying to hand her infant up to the nurses on the plane. Ms Plarres-Montes was holding the ankles of Ms Sophie Rochambault who was leaning out trying to grab the child, and finally succeeded in this. Apparently the mother fell down and was struck by bullets as the plane moved away. Once we in the air, I was told that the child was already dead. This was a very upsetting event for all of us. We did not return to Sudan after this.
I came to know Ms Plarres-Montes pretty well and saw her socially in Geneva and Paris, and visited her in her mother's home in Lorraine once. She had an older brother who had been badly injured in an auto wreck and suffered chronic effects of a brain injury, requiring constant care. Secorra was quite dedicated and a very efficient medical person, so I enjoyed flying with her and her team, which was comprised also of Ms Rochambault and Ms Lucia de Vega, with whom I still rendezvous about every other year. I was also aware of Lawrence Hammond's music. We had a portable tape-player we used to fly with, and listened sometimes to his songs. I located his website (for his music) and was fascinated that he went on to become a physician.