Pilot’s body not in wreck at Addo park

2014-02-03 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — “If ever there was a way in which he had to go, it had to be this one because he was doing what he always loved doing — and that was to fly.”

So said Greg O’Donoghue of Cape Town, the brother-in-law of Gauteng acrobatic pilot Cliff Pike, whose one-seater plane last week fell in the Addo Elephant National Park. His death has also been further heartbreaking because the remains of Pike could not be found.

“I don’t want to say any more than that. You know in which area his plane had crashed.”

Pike’s plane crashed in a rugged area of the national park where many predators roam.

Captain John Fobian of the Eastern Cape’s disaster management team confirmed that Pike’s remains could not be found “as a result of the wild animals”.

For the rescue team and Pike’s family and friends, the only consolation would be to know that the wreckage indicated that he had died on impact.

Pieces of the wreckage have been strewn as far as 150 metres away, said Fobian.

“Colleen [Pike’s wife] now has closure, since the wreckage has been found and she knows that he did not suffer,” said O’Donoghue.

Colleen arrived in the Eastern Cape over the weekend to collect her husband’s personal belongings, which were found at the scene of the crash.

Pike, an acrobatic pilot from Benoni, went missing close to Alexandria after he and two other pilots flew from Port Alfred on their way to the Diaz Air Show in Mossel Bay. They landed in thick fog near Alexandria and decided to fly in different directions in an effort to avoid the fog. The other two one-seater planes got away safely, but Pike went missing.

Fobian said it would appear as if Pike was searching for a landing strip, which as the crow flies, had been 500 metres away from the scene of the accident.

“There are indications that he wanted to glide, but we suspect that he had landed in between the cliffs and the valley in the park.”

The initial search was launched in the Alexandria area. The wreckage was spotted between Ado and Colchester by an army helicopter on Saturday.

O’Donoghue said they had been in a private helicopter, following the army helicopter, when the wreckage was spotted.

The rescue team could only reach the rugged area in a 4x4 vehicle. They had to walk about 100 metres to reach the wreck. Armed rangers accompanied the team to protect them against wild animals.

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