Teenager describes plane crash

2008-01-28 00:00

An 18-year-old girl this weekend described the horror of seeing a plane crash and explode on her family farm near Howick.

The crash claimed the lives of two men on Saturday.

Amy Mitchell told The Witness yesterday that she was taking a walk on Glen Call farm at around lunchtime when she heard the light aircraft in front of her, low down in the valley.

“It was close to the mountain and the engine tones were varying. It seemed to be experiencing difficulty in the wind draft.”

She said the weather was clear at the time.

“It took a low swerve and lifted and I thought it would clear the mountain.” She then heard a crash that made her turn to see what had happened.

“There was a sudden explosion and all I could think of was to run.”

Amy dashed down the hill to the house where her family called the police. “My brother Charles set off immediately on his motorbike and I followed in the car with my dad, Gary.”

She said that when they arrived at the scene there was a huge fire. “We saw one man, but there was nothing we could do for him.” With the help of neighbours and a farm worker, the Mitchells set about putting the fire out with branches torn from nearby trees.

“I got quite a fright. It was like something you see on the movies. After fighting the fire, I sat dumbstruck watching the burning wreck,” said Amy.

Her father Gary told The Witness that the terrain in the area is very hilly and that the site where the plane crashed is a steep gorge. He said he believes the men were flying in the area to undertake an agricultural survey.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said that when they arrived at Glen Call farm the men were already dead. Initial reports stated that the craft was a microlight, but Budhram said yesterday that this may have been due to the burnt state of the plane

He confirmed that the aeroplane, an Icarus C42, burst into flames on impact.

The aircraft was carrying two occupants: the pilot, Andries van Niekerk (24), and his passenger, 49-year-old Free State farmer Herman Marx. Budhram said both men were severely burnt.

He said the aeroplane, which belonged to a Pretoria company known as SIQ that deals with spatial technology, was being used by Marx to survey farmlands in the area when it crashed.

“The Civil Aviation Authority will investigate further to establish the cause of the crash and the circumstances surrounding it.”

Yesterday, family members of the victims and representatives from SIQ gathered at the scene of the crash along with members of the Civil Aviation Authority. The engine was extricated from the wreckage and taken for examination by the CAA.

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