Two killed while on sightseeing flight in Free State

2008-03-23 00:00

Authorities are still trying to establish why a fun flip in a light aircraft ended in tragedy on Saturday when the plane crashed in the Free State near Van Reenen, killing the pilot and his brother-in-law.

Sarel Venter of ER24 told The Witness yesterday that the plane was on its last trip of the day when it nosedived into the ground near Nelson’s Kop.

He said the two men died at the scene.

The pilot and owner of the aircraft was Brian Bendall (about 43) and his passenger was John Gibbs (age unknown).

Venter said the plane was badly wrecked on impact.

Investigators from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were on the scene yesterday along with police to try and determine the cause of the crash.

Free State police spokesman Sergeant Mako Mophiring told The Witness that the crash occurred on Fullerton Farm on flat terrain. He said the men had flown down from Johannesburg on holiday and were staying at the farm.

Bendall and Gibbs were on a late-afternoon sightseeing flight around the area when the crash occurred at around 4 pm.

Bendall was from Lyndhurst and Gibbs from Abbotsford, said Mophiring.

He said that family of the men had gathered at the farm yesterday.

"The reason for the crash remains a mystery at this stage as the terrain in the area is quite flat and the crash occurred during daylight hours.

"The CAA is trying to figure out what went wrong," he said.

o Two Howick men can thank their lucky stars that they are alive today after the engine of their home-built Battaleur Microlite lost power while flying yesterday. Pilot Barry Williams and passenger Andre van Schoenebeck were forced to make an emergency landing.

Police Inspector Jack Haskins, who was on the scene shortly after the crash, said the men were fortunate to escape without a scratch.

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