Search called off as people ask: Did a plane crash?

2010-04-01 00:00

THE police have called off the search for a light aircraft that was reported to have crashed in Baynesfield Valley on Tuesday afternoon.

The Witness reported yesterday that the search for the aircraft started late on Tuesday because the first call reporting the incident was believed to be a hoax.

It was reported that people who had spotted the aircraft told the police that it was yellow.

The search resumed yesterday morning with Netcare 911, the police dog unit and the Pietermaritzburg and Durban search-and-rescue units combing the valley for the crash site and wreckage. The search was called off due to bad weather and resumed around lunchtime.

By then the police air wing was brought in to fly over the valley in the hope of spotting the crash site, but there were no sightings.

The sugar cane manager on Baynesfield Estate, Kevin Bissett, said the situation is still unclear because there has been no confirmation that there was actually a plane, and the place the plane is thought to have crashed in is very difficult to get to.

“Yesterday there was a yellow plane spraying my cane. I phoned the pilot, but he said it wasn’t his plane, his was fine. That was the only yellow plane I saw in the area on the day,” said Bissett.

Jonny Smit of the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre said they have heard nothing, but the search is on for more leads.

People living in the Baynesfield area phoned around trying to get information about the alleged plane crash, but nobody seemed to be sure whether there was an accident.

Local farmer Trevor Lewis said his attempts to find out more were fruitless. “My calls drew nothing. But surely the aerodromes in the country would know if a plane was missing. People are talking about it; some say it is a yellow plane, others are saying it’s a Cherokee. Don’t forget that tomorrow is April Fool’s, but this would be a terrible joke,” said Lewis.

Pilot George Albu, who lives on the R56 near the bottom of the Baynesfield hill, told The Witness that he heard an aeroplane flying over his house at 3.45 pm on Tuesday and thought it might be in trouble. “It was either going to land very close by or was flying very low.

“The engine wasn’t running and it glided over my house at treetop height.” Albu said there was “incredible wind noise”. He reported the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority and to Oribi airport, he said.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said: “We’ve checked with the aviation offices and there’s no reported missing aircraft. I suspect this might have been one of those huge remote-controlled planes and people must have mistaken it for the real thing. We’ve done our best, but we came back empty-handed.”


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