Pilot a College Old Boy

2014-09-25 00:00

THE pilot who died in the Underberg chopper crash on Monday was a former Maritzburg College pupil, Blake Simson.

Simson was flying with Hendrik Olivier (46) from Stellenbosch to conduct an alien plants survey in the area, when the helicopter crashed in the mountains near a Mondi forest.

The cause of the accident is still being investigated.

Some documents, a cellphone, tablet navigator, bank and medical aid cards were found a few metres away from the scene.

Simson matriculated in 2009 and went to Port Elizabeth to train for his commercial pilot’s licence.

He pursued a career as a helicopter pilot and was based at the Cathedral Peak Hotel in Winterton.

His former employer, Brett Tungay, owner of Westline Aviations, described Simson as a “conscientious employee”.

Tungay said since Simson joined Westline Aviations, he had never been involved in any accident.

“He was a good employee. He resigned in July and went to work as a pilot in Bloemfontein,” Tungay said. “We were very sad when he left us.”

Olivier’s medical aid card indicates three dependents, who are believed to be his wife Miriam and two sons, Anton (3) and Emil, who is 11 months.

Berg Protection Services’ advanced life support paramedic Richard Champkins said the wreck was in an inaccessible area. “By the time we got there, two people were trying to put out the fire. Some parts of the chopper were scattered over a huge area. Both bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

“When we received the call, we thought they might have cut the Eskom line, but when we arrived it looked as if they saw the line too late and in trying to avoid hitting it, lost control,” Champkins speculated.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated. “On Monday the pilot and passenger were flying their small aircraft around Underberg area. They lost control of the plane and crashed in the mountains near Mondi forest. They died when the plane caught fire,” said Zwane.

A post on the Maritzburg College Old Boys Association (MCOBA) Facebook page read: “It is with sadness that we report the death of Blake Simson (2009). Sincere condolences go to the Simson family. May the heartfelt thoughts of friends who understand your sorrow be a source of strength and comfort.”

Attempts to get hold of his family and the Department of Transport for comment were unsuccessful.

• mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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