Destinations Eastern Africa

Kenyan River Drama: Wildlife Pilots Defeat Crocodiles, Save Man

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Written by Jesca

Taru Carr-Hartley and Roan brothers of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya are the unsung heroes following their heroic rescue of a Kenyan driver trapped in the Galana River.

Taru, 22, and his brother Roan, 20, are wildlife conservation fliers who saved the life of a frightened trucker from drowning in a dangerous river swarmed with crocodiles. The rescue was remarkable, almost similar to a scene in Dare-Devil movies.

While they are undoubtedly young, their helicopter-flying skills and heart for humanity remain unrivalled. Yet, this wasn’t the first time the two young men came through to save a life when all hope was gone.

What Did Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Helicopter Pilots Do?

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fixed-wing pilots Taru Carr-Hartley and Roan saved the life of a trucker after a six-hour wait. The truck driver was driving across a causeway over River Galana located in the Tsavo East National Park, Kenya.

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Taru and Roan, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust pilots save a distressed Kenyan trucker. Photo/Citizen Digital

Suddenly, due to heavy rain 30 miles upstream, a flash flood hit the area. Unfortunately, the fully loaded tanker was swept off the crossing and rolled over, trapping the driver inside the cab.

At 10 am, the driver opened the window of his cab and climbed out. Rescuers on the riverbank hoped to reach him, but the water level kept rising, and they couldn’t. After six-and-a-half hours, hope seemed lost. However, by luck, someone called the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and asked if they could provide a helicopter to help rescue the driver.

How Did Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Help A Distressed Kenyan Trucker?

Tsavo East National Park’s aviation team, which typically employs helicopters to safeguard and assist elephants and rhinos, quickly sent out a dispatch with the trust owners’ two ranger sons, Taru and Roan, on board.

As the rescuers approached, they saw the driver clinging onto the tanker, which the force of the water had tipped over. The windshield was shattered, and the cabin was filling with water. Time was running out, and the onlookers on the shore could only watch in horror as the river threatened to swallow the entire vehicle, including its driver.

The swirling current prevented anyone from reaching the truck from the bank, and it was up to Taru and Roan in the helicopter to save the driver. Taru skillfully guided the chopper to within a hair’s breadth of the vehicle.

According to a spokesperson from Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Taru and Roan flew out of the base immediately they got the distress call. The two pilots spotted the driver hanging precariously atop the truck’s cabin as raging waters aggressively filled the Galana causeway.

How Did Taru Carr-Hartley and Roan Rescue the Trucker?

Roan successfully rescued the trucker by helping him into the helicopter after putting on his harness. The Trust called it a high-stakes rescue mission with the best possible outcome. The trucker was safely set down on the higher ground where other rescuers were waiting, and Roan and his brothers returned to their base in the national park.

Shortly after, it was reported that the petrol tanker was swept further downstream into deeper water. If the driver had still been stranded on the tanker, he would have almost certainly lost his life.

Has Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Saved Lives Before?

Sheldrick Wildlife trust

A four-year-old boy who survived six days at the Tsavo National Park before Roan, a pilot from Sheldrick Wildlife Trust found him. Photo/Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

This isn’t the first time the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is earning praise from Kenyans and the international community. Roan, in particular, has been praised for his bravery. In December 2022, he helped locate a four-year-old goat herder who had disappeared in the vast Tsavo National Park after losing contact with his brother while herding their goats.

Roan and 70 local villagers searched for the missing boy in the national park for days but it became extremely futile and tiresome as his footprints were not visible.  The boy’s tracks were washed away by rain, and trackers had to start their search again.

After six days, they found the missing boy’s tracks 11 miles away from the village, deep in a hyena territory. Roan took off again and, after several hours, spotted the boy. The pilot used his aircraft to locate the starving boy in the wild. In a miraculous feat, he had survived for six days and nights amidst predators and painful mosquito bites with nothing to eat.

The villagers named the boy Roan in honour of the pilot and gifted him a goat.

About the author


Besigye is a Ugandan writer and a teacher by profession. She loves adventure and travelling that's why she loves writing travel blogs.

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