‘There was no sign of life’

2010-05-13 00:00

“PIECES of wreckage and bodies lay strewn over a distance of 800 metres. There was no sign of life.

“It wasn’t a pretty sight. They were friends and colleagues and people we knew,” said Juan Wolmarans, one of the first people at the scene of the plane crash in Libya yesterday morning. At least six South Africans died in the crash.

The Airbus A330-200 of Libyan carrier Afriqiyah Airways, which left Johannesburg on Tuesday night, crashed near the Libyan capital, Tripoli, as it came in to land at 6 am yesterday.

Altogether 103 people died — most of them tourists from the Netherlands on their way to Europe from South Africa. An eight-year-old Dutch boy miraculously survived.

According to a Libyan newspaper, the pilot of Flight 8U771 told air traffic controllers that they were experiencing problems shortly before the crash.

Wolmarans (36), an operations manager at Global Aviation in Tripoli, said he was waiting for a colleague, Catherine Tillett, who was on the flight.

“The plane hit the ground about a kilometre from runway number nine. Then it ploughed through trees, se­veral buildings and vehicles.

“Visibility was poor. When I got to the scene, the tail was the only part of the plane that was still recognisable. Pieces of wreckage lay everywhere. It was gruesome.”

Democratic Alliance MP Anchen Dreyer’s brother, 50-year-old Frans Dreyer, a businessman from Menlo Park in Pretoria, was among the South African victims.

Dreyer was at Parliament when she received a call with the news that her brother had been in a plane crash.

She boarded the first available flight to Gauteng to support her bro­ther’s family.

Robert Eduard Weber (41), an employee of engineering firm BKS Global, was also on the flight. His colleagues were waiting for him at the airport in Tripoli when they “heard a loud crash”.

Weber was on his way back to Libya after spending a week with his family in Roodepoort.

Tillett (44), a training officer at Global Aviation in Johannesburg, died along with two former colleagues who retired recently, Norbert Taferner and his wife, Paula.

According to the company AirQuarius, one of its senior managers was also on the plane. Company spokesperson Michael Goodwin said the man was from Johannesburg, but would not release further details.

The Libyan airline is popular among passengers flying from South Africa to European cities.

There were 11 crew and 93 passengers on board, of whom 62 were from the Netherlands (including the boy who survived). The rescued Dutch boy was admitted to hospital in a stable condition with head injuries and fractures.

Among the others were 13 Libyans, two Germans, a Zimbabwean, a Filippino and a Briton.

Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan ruled out terrorism as the cause of the crash, the Associated Press has reported.

The flight’s black boxes were retrieved from the wreckage yesterday afternoon.

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