SA pilot dies in Zambian air crash

Johannesburg - A South African pilot was killed when a light aircraft crashed in Zambia, a close family friend told News24 on Friday.

Frans Haasbroek, himself a former police pilot, said Captain Mike O'Donnell, 41, was flying the six-seater Eurocopter B3 Squirrel from Angola to Zambia when it crashed.

No one else was on board.

"Mike has been a very close friend of mine for over 20 years now. He flew in the SANDF... he was an extremely dedicated policeman and excellent pilot," Haasbroek told News24.

"He chalked up a huge amount of flying hours, risking his own life for others doing rescues across the province of KZN. It is an extremely sad day for all of us who knew him and it is certainly a loss to the police force and the aviation fraternity at large.

"It is also a massive knock to his friends and family."

One body recovered

The Times of Zambia reported on its website that the plane crashed and burnt to a shell in Mazabuka on Thursday.

Only one charred body was reportedly recovered at the scene.

Zambia's Southern Province police chief Mary Chikwanda told newspaper that the fixed wing plane crashed around 13:00.

She said police were still investigating the number of passengers who were on board at the time of the crash, and whether they were South African.

It was a South African-registered plane.

Department of International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela could not immediately confirm the accident.

"We are still waiting for more information,” he said.

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