Friends gather for SA pilot's memorial service

2015-04-10 15:50
A picture of friends Mike O'Donnell, left, and Frans Haasbroek, right. (Supplied, Frans Haasbroek)

A picture of friends Mike O'Donnell, left, and Frans Haasbroek, right. (Supplied, Frans Haasbroek)

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Durban - Friends of helicopter pilot Mike O'Donnell, who died in a helicopter crash in Zambia, gathered for a memorial service on Friday.

It is understood that O'Donnell died when the helicopter he was flying from Angola to Zambia crashed in the Mazabuka District of Zambia on Thursday.  

Other pilots, paramedics and policeman gathered to pay tribute to their former comrade at the police’s Air Wing base in Durban.

ER24 paramedic Paul Knoesen, who had worked extensively with O'Donnell on several rescue missions, extolled the pilot’s virtues.

“He was a very well-known and well-liked guy and we wanted to pay our respects. I flew with him and he was very close to the family at ER24,” he said.

“All the times we took to the air together, I never had any compunction about putting my life in his hands. We wish to send condolences from the entire emergency service community to his family,” he said.

Frans Haasbroek, a family friend and himself a former police pilot, said O'Donnell was flying the six-seater Eurocopter B3 Squirrel from Angola to Zambia when it crashed.

No one else was on board.

"Mike has been a very close friend of mine for over 20 years now. He flew in the SANDF... he was an extremely dedicated policeman and excellent pilot," Haasbroek told News24.

"He chalked up a huge amount of flying hours, risking his own life for others doing rescues across the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is an extremely sad day for all of us who knew him and it is certainly a loss to the police force and the aviation fraternity at large."

Read more on:    er24  |  zambia  |  air crashes  |  southern africa

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