SA aviation suffers huge loss

2011-08-17 00:00

“WE have lost some valuable people on those planes, and Kevin was no exception,” said a solemn Durban Air Show organiser Ray de Vries after 13 bodies were recovered from the double plane crash near Tzaneen, Limpopo, yesterday.

Kevin Woolacott of Westville, who assisted De Vries over the past six years organising the popular Durban Airshow and the Duzi Canoe marathon, was among the dead.

Woolacott leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter, a 10-year-old son and his wife, Bev.

“Kevin was a dependable somebody and absolutely meticulous, I can’t stress the magnitude of this loss to the aviation industry. He was a wealth of knowledge and one amazing pilot,” said De Vries.

The two doomed planes took off from a landing strip in Tzaneen after an air show on Sunday and were headed to the Rand Airport in Germiston, Gauteng.

The first plane was piloted by Brian Gruar.

Friends described him as a gentleman of the aviation industry.

He never minded flying an aeroplane spare part to an air show and was fondly described as the air show community’s taxi driver because he also often gave people lifts to shows.

Gruar previously led the Yak aerobatics team.

Gruar’s partner, Marrion Anderson, was with him in the aircraft. Both were familiar figures at air shows.

Anderson’s two nieces, Maddison (7) and Alexandra Doak (9), who flew to Tzaneen with their aunt as a special weekend outing, were also on board.

The husbands of Tess Spence and Louise Warden performed during the air show and air race held in Tzaneen on Saturday.

Dennis Spence and their daughter, Angela, live in Australia and were visiting South Africa when they attended the air show.

The men fly for the Goodyear Eagles aerobatics team.

Glen Warden was an air force fighter pilot for many years and is a senior commercial pilot for BA Comair. Spence is a senior captain with SAA.

Woolacott, Saturday’s programme co-ordinator, was the last passenger in this aircraft.

Piloting the second aircraft was Peter Gildenhuys.

His girlfriend, Marietjie de Witt, was accompanying him.

Gildenhuys was not a show pilot, but was a seasoned Albatross pilot.

Peter van Oldenborgh of Johannesburg and his young son, Stuart, were flying with Gildenhuys.

Van Oldenborgh was a co-owner of an Albatross and was closely involved with the restoration and maintenance of these veteran aeroplanes in South Africa.

Frans Dely, a world-renowned aviation photographer and publisher of several books on aircraft and related subjects, was another of Gildenhuys’s passengers.

He was busy working on an annual about the South African aviation industry.

Linda Pierce (52) of Johannesburg was the marketing manager for Allegiance Air.

Her fiancé, Athol Franz, editor of African Pilot, returned in a Yak aerobatics plane while she caught a lift with the Albatross. She is survived by a daughter, Jessica (23).

Woolacott’s family and other mourners paid an emotional tribute to the victims by sounding a bell and observing a moment’s silence last night.

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