Rescuers search for chopper drowning victims

2009-05-14 00:00

AFTER a day and half of searching, emergency services have managed to recover the body of one of the Defence Force members that drowned in a helicopter crash on Tuesday.

“We found one body at around 4.20 pm,” said Superintendent Muzi Mngonezulu, the Communications Officer for the provincial SAPS who was on scene at Woodstock Dam yesterday.

“We will continue to search for the other bodies ... the only thing that can stop us is the darkness,” he said.

Yesterday, The Witness reported that a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) helicopter crashed into the Woodstock Dam near Bergville during a training flight.

An eye-witness, Quin Mlangeni, who had been fishing at the time of the crash, said he saw the chopper’s nose go into the water first and then he saw the tail — still ablaze — follow.

Three SANDF members were killed in the crash. Two bodies are still unaccounted for.

According to a police statement, the crash occurred at around 11.30 am, while the aircraft was en route to Dragonspeak flying past the Upper Tugela River.

Earlier yesterday, search teams recovered bits and pieces of what used to be an Agusta A109 — the same aircraft that flew over the Union Buildings during President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration.

It was only at around 3.30 pm that the aircraft was removed from the dam by an Oryx helicopter. “It didn’t look burnt, but it did look broken,” said Mngonezulu.

Although the Defence Ministry did not want to release the names of the three killed in the crash, sources in the SA Air Force have revealed that the men on the aircraft were Captain Wayne Bongani Mdluli (33), Lieutenant Simon Lehlohonolo Baloyi (27) and Flight Sergeant Mone Izak Zuidmeer (32).

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