‘The plane is dead, but I am happy to be alive,’ says passenger

2012-08-03 00:00

THE pilot of a light aircraft and his passenger escaped without injuries when the aircraft they were in crash-landed on Slow Land farm in Cato Ridge yesterday morning.

Dio Kapena, of Durban, was piloting the plane just after it had been serviced.

The young pilot appeared to be in shock when The Witness arrived at the scene.

His passenger, Japhet Ngubane, shook one of the police officer’s hands with a broad smile, saying: “The plane is dead, but I am happy to be alive.”

The plane sustained damage to its bodywork.

The light aircraft was flying from Virginia Airport and was to land at the private airstrip in Cato Ridge.

Kapena could not believe what had happened.

“I have never crashed anything in my life, not even a car.

“I’m happy that no one is injured, but I wish it had never happened.”

Ngubane told The Witness that they had collected the aircraft from Durban after its an annual service.

“This plane stays here in Cato Ridge and the owner is overseas.

“ I won’t be in position to comment further until the South African Civil Aviation Authority [Sacaa] has completed its investigation,” Ngubane said.

It is believed that the aircraft is owned by Ngubane’s employer.

The pilot declined to comment further.

Sacaa spokesperson Phindile Gwebu said yesterday that the accident was reported and the authority was waiting for details.

“We have nothing tangible at this point … we’re still investigating,” Gwebu said.

But she did tell The Witness that the pilot was attempting to land and the the aircraft bounced three times, its left wing hitting the ground in a sugar cane field bordering the airstrip, before coming to a stop.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said paramedics and a police search-and-rescue unit arrived at the scene and found the pilot and the passenger on the runway.

“Although the pilot was visibly shocked, they were both uninjured,” Botha added.

The police said they would conduct an investigation with Sacaa.

In May this year, four people died in two plane crashes in KwaZulu-Natal.

A couple from Piet Retief in Mpumalanga en route to Cape Town were killed near Greytown, while in Margate an experimental aircraft crashed and burnt, killing passenger Hazel Nash and pilot Rob Mirtle at an airshow there. The aircraft had recently been serviced, The Witness reported at the time.

• mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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