Two locals die in Mozambique air crash

2008-09-22 00:00

Among the seven casualties of the plane crash in Mozambique on Saturday were two residents of Pietermaritzburg who worked for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW). One was an expert in nature conservation and the other a talented designer.

James Wakelin (36) lived in Hilton Road, and Mark Coetzee (47) lived in Chase Valley. They were among six people who died after the private plane in which they were passengers crashed in Beira province of Mozambique.

The pilot and his assistant were also killed in the accident. The aircraft was hired in Johannesburg.

Wakelin, who had a masters degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, was a biodiversity planner for EKZNW.

Coetzee was a manager for the design studio at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. He had qualified at Natal Technikon as a graphic artist.

They boarded the plane in Durban and headed to Beira on a private business trip.

Friends and family members of Wakelin and Coetzee described them as people who were passionate about life and talented in their nature conservation callings.

“The accident shocked the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff. James was a talented ecologist while Mark was a talented artist,” said a close colleague and friend of both men.

The friend had worked with Coetzee since he joined the organisation more than 20 years ago. He had also worked with Wakelin for more than five years.

Roger Porter, who also worked with Wakelin, said his work was focused on protected species. He said Wakelin also worked on conservation planning with various municipalities.

“He was very passionate about nature conservation. He recently delivered a paper at the Pan- African Ornithology Conference in Cape Town on one of South Africa’s most endangered birds, the Blue Swallow. He is seen as the international expert on these species,” said Porter.

A close friend of the Wakelin family, who preferred to be known only as Lyn, spoke highly of Wakelin, who is survived by a 10-month-old son and wife Allison.

“He was a wonderful person who loved life. He was fantastic and loved his family,” said Lyn, who broke into tears during the interview.

Mark Coetzee’s close friend described him as an accomplished wildlife artist. Coetzee leaves behind his widow, Julia, and a daughter and son aged 16 and 21 from a previous marriage.

“Mark had a wide circle of friends across a spectrum of different ages. He touched many lives and had a wonderful sense of humour and a generous personality,” said his friend.

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