Pilot battling Cape Town fire dies in chopper crash

2015-03-08 17:37

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The pilot who died in a helicopter crash while dousing fire at Cape Point this morning has been identified as Willem Hendrik “Bees” Marais.

Marais attempted a forced landing with his Bell 212 Huey near Olifantsbos in the Table Mountain National Park at 11:30am when he crashed.

As a freelance flyer for poverty relief programme Working On Fire, Marais worked tirelessly this week battling the blaze that erupted last Sunday, scooping water and dropping it on flames with a 1000 litre bambi-bucket attached to his chopper.

Marais, a former South African Air Force (SAAF) pilot, leaves behind his wife, Jacqui, and their children.

A friend of his from his SAAF days, Mariette Hopley, described him as always having a smile on his face.

“Very calm and friendly, always a smile and time for colleagues and people around him. He was loved by all,” Hopley told City Press

“He excelled as an aviator and taught and shared his knowledge and expertise with many other pilots. He was a special soul and mentor.”

Meanwhile, city councillor JP Smith said arsonists are suspected to be behind flare-ups that started at Scarborough on the South Peninsula late yesterday.

The city has called in the services of one of South Africa’s leading forensic investigators, Dr David Klatzow, to look into how the fires originated.

Richard Bosman, executive director for safety and security, said: “These are two new fires. We received a call from a Fish Hoek fire volunteer. The helicopter will water-bomb the area until 7.20pm and the fire-fighters will have to stay overnight”.

The fight against the fire continues while condolences for Marais’ family pours in.

Marais also worked for Air Mercy Service, a non-profit organisation that provides emergency air ambulance and rural health outreach programmes across South Africa.

“RIP Oom Bees. What a legend!” tweeted fellow air medical worker, Farhaad Haffejee.

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