The Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa has expressed her condolences to the families of Mr. Darrel Rea and Mr. Jastun Visagie, who lost their lives battling a mountainside fire in the Bains Kloof area near Wellington in the Western Cape yesterday afternoon.
The Working on Fire helicopter was providing aerial support to teams battling the fire on the ground and while landing at the fire scene in strong winds, to configure the helicopter into the fire-bombing role, the Bell UH-1H (Huey) impacted a mountainside in Bain’s Kloof close to Wellington.
Both of the deceased were experienced firefighters and Mr. Rea was Working on Fire’s Chief Pilot for helicopters, and Mr. Visagie the Helicopter Safety Leader.
“At a time of great sadness for the families of the deceased, and for all of us as the Department of Environmental Affairs, we salute their bravery and dedication to their work,” said Minister Molewa, adding: “They risked their own lives to protect others: we are immensely grateful for their contribution. Not just the residents of the fire- affected areas, but all South Africans.”
The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash.
The tragedy comes a month after veteran Working on Fire pilot Willem Hendrik ‘Bees’ Marais was killed during an attempted forced landing in the Table Mountain National Park.
The fatalities are particularly tragic considering that until last month, there had only been a single fatality throughout the programme’s eleven-year history.
The Department of Environmental Affairs remains committed to working with the Civil Aviation Authority investigating the incident.
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SOURCE: South African Official News