Farm couple describe ‘horrific’ fatal plane crash

2008-06-29 00:00

A Hammarsdale couple yesterday described the sick feeling they experienced when they realised that the loud crash they heard was an aeroplane smashing into a hill close to their home on the Bartlett Estate, killing both the pilot and passenger, who are believed to be from Pretoria.

It is believed that the couple, whose names are known to The Witness, had come to KZN to visit a relative in Wartburg. They were staying in a bed and breakfast in Wembley and were on a round trip from Oribi when the accident occurred at around 5.15 pm on Saturday. It is believed that the man owned a company in Midrand.

Their bodies were taken to the Pinetown mortuary and their names had not been released yesterday.

Speaking to The Witness, Justin and Trish von Niebel said they heard the engine of the Piper Cherokee “revving like mad”.

Justin said he was in the stables feeding his horses when he heard the plane’s engine screaming and then a “horrific” crash.

Trish said they immediately called a friend who has ties to the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club to report the accident. “He then contacted the relevant authorities and directed them to the scene.”

The couple said there was heavy cloud cover on the hill, which their property directly overlooks.

“I have never seen such a cloud,” said Trish. “It was a massive grey cloud.”

They said the top of the hill is planted with sugarcane, which was recently burned, making it dark brown.

This may have added to the factors hampering visibility. Trish said she spoke to an air traffic controller from Johannesburg after the crash who said that there may have been a lot of turbulence under the cloud.

A large contingent of emergency services rushed to the area with fire engines, ambulances and rescue teams converging on the hill.

They worked late into the night and had to extricate the body of the woman, which was trapped in the aircraft and was found in her seat. The man was allegedly thrown out of the plane on impact.

The wreckage was said to have covered a large area.

People on the scene said a wing was sheared off and found some 800 metres from the rest of the aircraft.

They reported a large hole where it is presumed that the propeller dug into the ground. The wreckage was found some way away from the hole.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram confirmed that both occupants, a woman aged about 55 and a man aged about 60, died on impact.

Numerous attempts to contact Civil Aviation Authority spokeswoman Phindiwe Gwebu and other CAA officials were unsuccessful yesterday.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.