Investigation into fatal Kruger crash

2013-04-01 14:54

Government has sent condolences to the families of the five SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members who died when their helicopter crashed in the Kruger National Park.

Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, her deputy Rejoice Mabudafhasi and SA National Parks expressed sadness today at the news that the helicopter had crashed while conducting a scheduled aerial patrol of the Kruger National Park as part of an anti-rhino poaching operation.

“We hope this sad event will not deter our men and women working tirelessly to protect our country’s rhino population against the ongoing scourge of poaching by marauding bandits,” the department said in a statement.

On Saturday, the SANDF said an SA Air Force Agusta A109 light utility helicopter crashed around 7pm, killing five members on board.

“A preliminary investigation is currently under way to establish the sequence of events that led to the fatal crash of the helicopter,” Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga said in a statement at the time.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) also sent its condolences to the families and friends of the SANDF members who died and welcomed the announcement that the crash would be investigated.

“It is imperative that the findings of the investigation be made public; and that the joint standing committee on defence be briefed on the findings once the Board of Inquiry has been completed,” DA MP David Maynier said in a statement.

“The recent crash will inevitably raise questions about the Agusta 109 helicopter, which has experienced major problems in the past.”

These included software integration problems and the fact that the helicopter was reportedly underpowered, he said.

Yesterday, President Jacob Zuma said such an investigation must “shed light on the circumstances of the crash”.

He said the whole country was “saddened” by the loss.

The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) said the deaths closed a difficult week for the country’s military.

“These deaths represent one of the blackest weeks in SA military history,” Sandu national secretary Pikkie Greef said in a statement.

This week the bodies of thirteen SANDF soldiers killed during a battle with rebels in Bangui in the Central African Republic were brought back home.

Twenty seven other wounded troops are recovering at Pretoria’s military hospital.

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