Air crash victim loved flying in tiny plane

2012-05-01 00:00

IT was Hazel Nash’s last message on Facebook, posted on April 21, eight days before the fatal plane crash that claimed her life in Margate at the weekend.

“A stunning day here in Camperdown … just watched Rob take off in the Rally, giving it a test flight after its long and full service … good to see it flying again!”

Nash (55) of Crestholme near Hillcrest died after the very same plane — an experimental aircraft — crashed after takeoff and burst into flames at 11 am on Sunday.

Nash, a mother of three, died on the scene. Her partner, pilot Robert Mirtle (53), sustained 80% burns and was rushed to hospital. He underwent surgery yesterday, his brother, Barry said, declining to comment further.

Nash, who in her Facebook profile described herself as “a home exec for two homes”, had previously worked as a salaries clerk at Huletts Amatikulu and a receptionist at Perry Ford in Mtunzini.

Her older sister, Heather Worthington, who was overcome by grief last night, told The Witness: “We are going to miss her sense of humour, her laughter and her love for her children”.

Nash was someone who was always positive and who had stayed strong after the loss of her husband, Gary, due to kidney failure in 1992.

She had raised her three children, Karen, Melanie and Michael, who were aged nine, seven and five at the time, which was not always easy on a limited income, said Worthington.

“However, Hazel met Rob some years later and an immediate bond was formed, which was to last them 18 years, with Rob becoming a second father to her children, devoting his life to Hazel and the children,” she said.

Worthington said Nash was very enthusiastic and supportive of Mirtle, sharing his passion for flying, and spending weekends at his smallholding at Camperdown.

She accompanied him to various fly-ins “and wholeheartedly shared her life with him and the children in a very close, neat way”.

“No funeral arrangements can be made at this stage, but a notice will appear in the press in due course,” she added.

Netcare911 spokesperson Chris Botha said Mirtle was still in the intensive care unit of St Augustine’s Hospital yesterday, but his condition had improved since his admission on Sunday.

South African Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Marié Bray said she was unable to confirm speculation that the cause of the accident was engine failure.

“Unfortunately we cannot confirm any further details about the cause of the accident. This will be included in the final report when the investigation has been concluded.”

She said typically an investigation took a couple of months, depending on the complexity of the process.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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