Berg tourists thought rescue copter was searching for them

2012-12-07 00:00

The weather over the Drakensberg during the initial search operations for the missing SAAF plane on Wednesday was rainy and misty.

Professor Gwythian Prins, of the London School of Economics, told The Witness that when he heard a helicopter searching for the wreckage on Wednesday afternoon, he thought it was searching for a hiker who might have been in trouble.

“I heard this noise of a helicopter and I went out to take a look. It looked like a rescue helicopter and it went up around the corner,” he said pointing to a hill in the distance.

“It hovered around for a bit. It tilted and moved up slowly along the ridge. It went up the slope, and then it disappeared. I didn’t see it again,” said Prins.

This was at around 3 pm on Wednesday. Prins described the weather at the time as rainy. “It was just rain, rain, rain. There was a heavy thunderstorm. It was overcast and there was low mist,” he said.

German tourist Frank Radeke said they saw a military helicopter above them when they were caught in the heavy rain while hiking.

“We thought they were searching for hikers. We thought they were searching for us. It was bad weather conditions,” he said.

“We didn’t know about the crash at the time. We only heard in the morning on the news that there was a plane crash.”

Sapa quoted SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini as saying the circumstances of the crash would be investigated by a board of inquiry.

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