Plane ‘just disintegrated’

2014-03-17 00:00

A KLOOF man and two of his friends died in Saturday’s light aircraft crash at Emoyeni Airfield in Camperdown.

Pilot Kim Patrick Gibbings (53), had invited his friends and fellow aircraft enthusaists to accompany him to Johannesburg to fetch his newly purchased four-seater light aircraft.

On their way back, they decided to pay a visit to Brian Eaton, who owns the Emoyeni Airfield in Camperdown to show him the new aircraft.

However, just before they could land, it “catastrophically blew into pieces” while in the air and crash-landed bursting into flames, eyewitnesses said.

Two bodies were flung out in the open field and one was found near the propeller and engine of the aircraft in the sugar cane fields.

It was an emotional scene as relatives came to identify the bodies and tears flowed at the loss of their loved ones.

A neighbouring farmer, Ian Roberts said, “We were sitting on the verandah and kids were swimming when we heard the plane coming.”

He said the plane was going very fast and low. “In seconds it just disintegrated with one wing still on and it just broke into pieces,” said Roberts.

He described it as a “catastrophic break-up”.

He said they were told it was a brand new plane the men had gone to fetch in Johannesburg and they were on their way to Virginia Airport in Durban.

A farm worker, Maletsatsi Lekena said, “We saw something blowing up in the air and we then heard a loud bang before seeing flames.”

She said they had to rush to the scene because they thought it had landed on their house. “We were so scared,” she said. “It was scattered to pieces before landing on the sugar cane.”

Brian Eaton said he knew the men and had been informed they were coming to show him the plane before heading to Durban.

“I did not witness the incident, I just heard a loud bang and saw debris,” he said.

Eaton could not be drawn into saying more because he was concerned that the next of kin may not have been informed.

Provincial Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said that Camperdown Police Station had opened an inquest docket. “It is alleged that an aircraft from Johannesburg crashed and the cause of the incident is unknown at this stage,” said Naicker.

Deputy director general for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Department of Transport, Zakhele Thwala said it seemed that there was a mid-air break-up. “We are investigating why this happened, but the unfortunate thing with this sort of aircraft is that it does not have a black box which normally assists us in an investigation,” he said.

Thwala said nevertheless, the nature of the break-up should be able to “tell us what caused this”.

Attempts to get a comment from relatives on scene were unsuccessful as they refused to talk to the press.

Kim Gibbings brother Kevin posted a comment on Facebook soon after the incident, identifying his brother as a Westville Boys’ High old boy.

Kevin wrote that his brother had “picked up a plane in Wonderboom, including two passengers. The wing came off above Camperdown and crashed into cane fields. Three bodies were removed from the wreckage”.

Friends of Kim Gibbings said he had always dreamed of being a pilot and had recently got his pilot’s license and bought a plane.

In another Facebook post, Kevin wrote “I wish I could’ve said goodbye. Hamba gashle my brother, there were some good times.”

Kim Gibbings leaves his wife Louise Jolivet Gibbings and two daughters from his first marriage, Jenna Gibbings and Shannon Skye Gibbings who live in Canada.

In a tribute to her father, Shannon Gibbings posted a photo of her father and wrote: “Today God has gained an angel. I know you left doing what you loved. Just know I will always love and cherish you in my heart.”

“Rest in peace dad. We love you.” wrote her sister Jenna.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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