Dakota crash probe at advanced stage, says air force head

2012-12-18 00:00

GIANTS CASTLE — The investigation into the Dakota crash that killed 11 air force personnel on December 5 is well advanced.

The families of the men who died were taken to the Berg yesterday and told by SA Air Force head Lieutenant-General Zakes Msimang that the probe would be done quickly but thoroughly so that the air force could learn from its mistakes and get answers to its questions.

The families held a farewell ceremony near the wreckage of the plane at the Dragon Peaks air base. The intention had been to fly them to the site of the crash, but the weather was too bad.

The investigation is being done at Dragon Peaks, the base where helicopter pilots are trained to fly in the high Berg on rescue missions.

The recently appointed Msimang said the last two weeks had been a baptism of fire.

Msimang was awarding pilots’ wings at the central flight school at Langebaanweg when he was told about the crash. He immediately cancelled his leave and he and his wife, Afrika, visited the families of the airmen who were killed.

“We have to walk this road with them, not only in memory of those who died, but for the sake of the children who will grow up without their fathers. They must know their fathers died like good soldiers, in the service of their country.”

He promised that the outcome of the investigation would be released as far as was possible in accordance with operational security.

He told the families, who include two pregnant widows: “Our pilots are still among the best in the world. Our standards are still high — never doubt this.”

With nurses and social workers standing by, the family members took leave of their loved ones in a ceremony in which they lit candles and placed roses on the wreckage, while the weather loomed over them, just as gloomy as it had been on December 5.

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