Plane victims' families 'shattered'
Marietie Louw-Carstens, Beeld
Tzaneen - The families of the 13 people who died in the plane crashes in the mountains outside Tzaneen on Sunday wept bitterly on Tuesday as three helicopters and several rescue workers retrieved their loved ones’ remains from the crash area.
Several of the victims’ relatives underwent counselling at Fairview Guesthouse. Trauma counsellors, psychologists and several church ministers from the area assisted people there.
Groups of people sat around, wrapped in blankets, weeping.
“I don’t know how I’m going to live without him,” a weeping woman said.
One of the shocked family members said over and over, “I hate God, I hate God”.
DA councillor René Pohl said the people are shattered: “Some of them are so shocked; reality hasn’t sunk in yet.”
The media were kept away from the families.
Among the families were Andy and Bronwyn Doak, who lost both their daughters, Alexandra, 9, and Maddison, 7.
The girls were with an aunt in one of the Albatross planes that left Tzaneen for Rand Airport near Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon. By late on Tuesday all bodies had been recovered.
An Oryx air force helicopter and a police helicopter were waiting at a landing strip on the banks of the Tzaneen Dam to fetch some of the bodies.
From there they were to be taken to the state mortuary, where relatives will have to identify them.
Wreckage of the two planes was found at about 08:00 on Tuesday in the mountains near Lekgalameetse, about 40km from Tzaneen.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said members of the Bakgaga royal village saw the aircraft go down and heard a crash. They helped the search teams find the wreckage.
Flew straight into mountain
Hannes Steyn, head of disaster management in the Mopani district, said the planes flew straight into a mountain about 15 minutes after take-off. There were six occupants in one of the Albatrosses and seven in the other. Their bodies were scattered over a large area.
Steyn said the two wrecks were found about 150 metres apart.
"The area is inaccessible and the helicopters couldn’t land. Rescue workers had to be lowered from the helicopters by rope.” The bodies were carried from the mountains on stretchers.
Aviation expert Brian Emenis said if the two planes had been flying about 200 metres higher they would have cleared the mountains.
The pilots, Brian Gruar and Peter Gildenhuys, spoke on their radios for the last time at 10:20 on Sunday. Steyn said no distress signal was received from either of the aircraft.
He also said no flight plans were filed before the two Albatrosses departed on Sunday morning. “There is no official air traffic control system from the Tarentaalrand airport.”
While the weather was fine during the air show on Saturday, it suddenly started deteriorating on Sunday morning and thick fog moved in over the mountains.
Recovery operations will continue on Wednesday.
- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts