Bystanders pepper-sprayed after plane crash

2012-04-30 12:37

Durban - Horrified eyewitnesses of Sunday's fatal plane crash in Margate were pepper-sprayed as they tried to come to the aid of the pilot and his passenger caught in the inferno.

The experimental aircraft burst into flames on takeoff at about 11:00 at Margate Airport, killing the woman passenger and seriously injuring the pilot, who sustained 80% burns.

The couple were reportedly from Pinetown and the plane was based at Camperdown.

The pilot, whose name is known to The Witness but whose details were not officially released, was first stabilised at Margate Hospital before being airlifted to Durban’s St Augustine’s Hospital, where he is in a critical condition.

Pilot tried to avoid homes

On going down, the aircraft went through a fence before entering bush close to homes in a residential area, eyewitnesses said.

Photographer Jacques Sellschop, who was in a helicopter taking pictures of the Africa Bike Week event, said that when a Mayday call came over the air, helicopter pilot John Rud­ling immediately diverted to the accident scene.

“Unfortunately the flames and heat were too intense to land and it appeared evident from the air that little could be done to assist the pilot and his passenger in the burning aircraft,” he said.

“Eyewitnesses who saw the plane take off, said the pilot apparently lost engine power as he approached the end of the runway and sent out the Mayday call.

“It would appear that he might have deliberately put the plane down into the fence in an effort to avoid hitting the houses that lay directly in his path.

“Netcare’s emergency response vehicles summoned from the Margate Hospital reached the scene within four minutes,” Sellschop said.

Horrified witnesses rushed towards the crash, within the airport perimeter, but emergency service officers prevented them from doing so.

Some found themselves on the receiving end of pepper spray.

Hibiscus Coast Municipality Director Protection Services, Victor Chetty, said: “Unfortunately we have prescribed emergency procedures to adhere to.

“Officers did use pepper spray. It was to contain people wanting to get on to the airport. These officials have strict instructions on crowd control.

“I can understand why people wanted to help in the principle of ubuntu, or in trying to help their fellow man, but unfortunately we couldn’t do anything else because we had to adhere to the prescribed regulations.

Engine cut off

Craig Ralph, vice-president of the Experimental Aircraft Association and president of its local chapter, said the aircraft was one of around 100 that had brought members to the annual general meeting in Margate.

Experimental aircraft are generally home-assembled, though some may be factory-assembled. They also include aircraft that fall under a certain weight category.

The AGM had ended on Saturday night.

Margate Airport Manager Graham Berriman told the Witness it appeared that the pilot’s engine had cut off, resulting in a crash landing.

“The plane landed on the rocks, but we cannot at this stage know exactly what caused the accident until the investigation is completed,” said Berriman.

He said the aircraft was a Rally Echo.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said an investigation was under way and confirmed that the aircraft was a Rally aircraft.

People in the aviation fraternity told the Witness they were shocked and saddened, but did not wish to comment further.

Margate police spokesperson, Sergeant Pumzile Makaula said the pilot sustained 80% burns.

“He’s still in a critical condition,” Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha.

The name of the deceased passenger had not yet been made public.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts.

  • Marion - 2012-04-30 13:01

    May she RIP. So sorry for the pilot who has sustained such terrible burns.

      Zip - 2012-05-01 17:48

      pepper-sprayed eh? hilarious. only in south africa. did the emergency services who pepper-sprayed the crowd expect them to ransack the place?

      lydonmcg - 2012-05-02 09:01

      Zip, in the bigger scheme of things pepper spray is likely to do far more damage to untrained civilians than a burning aircraft is. This has nothing to do with South Africa or ransacking, and everything to do with simple logic.

  • Shirley - 2012-04-30 13:09

    Condolences to all involved. I believe the correct decision was taken to keep people away,there could have been a lot more casualties. Thank you to those who were willing to do so though!

  • Janice - 2012-04-30 13:14

    Hell of a story, I hope he will pull through!!!

      Clint - 2012-04-30 13:17

      Whose the idiot giving the 2comments below a thumbs down?

      roberta.keeling - 2012-04-30 13:40

      You received 2 as well Clint. Bunch of half brains!

  • James - 2012-04-30 13:16

    “I can understand why people wanted to help in the principle of ubuntu, or in trying to help their fellow man, but unfortunately we couldn’t do anything else because we had to adhere to the prescribed regulations." HEY GUYS CATCH A WAKE UP!INSTEAD OF HIDING BEHIND RULES AS IS SADLY DONE IN THIS COUNTRY.PEOPLE RUSHED TO HELP A FELLOW PERSON NOT TO STEAL! MAYBE IF THEY WERE THERE IN TIME THEY COULD HAVE HELPED !! CONDOLENCES TO THE LADYS FAMILY ,AND A QUICK RECOVERY TO THE PILOT.

      Peter - 2012-04-30 13:25

      But, James ... I can see the headlines had they NOT been stopped and an explosion occured ... Or, worse, they ran in front of another aircraft landing while crossing the run-way? Instead of "only" one fatality, perhaps 20 or 30? Those rules are there to protect, not hinder as you seem to be infering?

      Magdaleen - 2012-04-30 13:27

      @James You are obviously not working in any emergency related work. What if there was an explosion whith "helpers" getting injured. What if some of the helpers moved the injured in an incorrect way and caused more harm. Good job done. Sorry for the families involved.

      JevonMarshallJohnson - 2012-04-30 13:50

      James you didn't think that one through son. lol Right action to take to prevent further casualties.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-04-30 14:13

      James if there was people to stop them there was already official people. Your point was what again? (if I red it correctly)

      Ryan - 2012-04-30 17:41

      “Netcare’s emergency response vehicles summoned from the Margate Hospital reached the scene within four minutes,” Sellschop said. James, you are right and wrong. To the people who commented below, please read this: I was sitting on the upper deck of the main terminal when the crash happened. We saw the plane disappear behind the tree's and then a huge cloud of smoke. The airport fire brigade was first on the scene, 3-4 minutes, followed by emergency services-police, fire brigade bakkies, and then ambulances, at least 10 minutes. We took a drive around the east side of the runway (outside of the airport grounds) where a whole lot of car's were parked, I would think the first people on the scene were there to help but some of the people didn't look like they were too concerned (some people smoking and drinking), a police van stopped with the police man carrying pepper spray to chase away the inquisitive people (I don't know if the pepper spray was used). In my opinion and at least 10 witnesses the emergency rescue team was too slow, it felt like an eternity when we waited for the first ambulance. Just for the record no unauthorised people entered the airport runway to interfere. Please don't comment on this matter if you do not know the truth. This is a serious problem with South African people!

      adrian.galley - 2012-05-01 09:16

      So Ryan is the custodian of truth? If everyone took your advice and kept their mouth shut, the truth would seldom emerge. Condolences to the victims and their families.

      Kevin - 2012-05-01 17:09

      Rushed to help a fellow person not to steal? HUH? The emergency personnel acted correctly - I have know of cases where people died from incorrect handling at an accident scene. I don't think any of those sprayed were qualified med-techs........

      Ryan - 2012-05-01 17:27

      Adrian, I suppose you are right. It would be nice if the newspapers reported properly. If you look on AVCOM you will read mostly the truth and a report by the pilot's brother. I think what James was trying to say that when there are accidents people try help their fellow man, its an instinct. I think the pepper spray was used to chase the inquisitive people away, not the people trying to help. But it was sad to see. The weekend was excellent, organised by the EAA but had a tragic end.

  • Helen - 2012-04-30 13:19

    May the deceased rest in peace and may her family receive the Lord's grace in coming to terms with their terrible loss. May God's healing mercies shower on the pilot as he recovers from his injuries. Blessings also to the Doctors and nursing staff as they attend to his needs during the recovery period. have FAITH - GOD IS GOOD !!!!

      raath - 2012-04-30 13:50

      How can people give thumbs down for a blessing spoken over others' healing?

      shooshyu.tu - 2012-04-30 19:49

      @raath because they are faceless TROLL cowards

      Paul - 2012-05-01 09:24

      It makes you wonder why we even partisapate here when there seems to be complete idoits doing the same

  • mike.clery - 2012-04-30 14:08

    "as they tried to come to the aid of the pilot and his passenger". The emergency services were already there. Pull the other one.

      Stirer - 2012-05-01 11:39

      Let me get this right Mike. They were pepper sprayed by the officials who had not reached the scene yet? Now that's really being proactive.

  • comurray - 2012-04-30 15:18

    So sad, my condolences to family and friends. RIP.

  • Grace - 2012-05-01 08:11

    It good they kept the bystanders at bay as they are NOT qualified to deal with matters like this. They could have done more damage to the victim and themselves. @JAMES - I've been in a car accident where bystanders rushed over to 'HELP' and ROBBED us.... I also believe the the bystanders were ASKED to step away first - pepper spray was a last resort for the morbidly curious

  • Adrian - 2012-05-02 01:17

    Isn't it amazing how people argue about trivialities, whether pepper spray was used or not to get rid of the curious onlookers. What I wonder about is the condition of the pilot, howcome the planes motor failed, how the pilot tried to avoid the houses and crashed into the fence.

  • Ian - 2012-05-02 10:10

    so this is what you get for trying to help, maybe the officers should have just asked for a bribe, its all they capable of

  • Marlene - 2012-05-02 18:24

    The plane crashed across from our house (+/-100m), my husband assisted one of the emergency staff from the other side of the road to get to the fence. It is a very overgrown vacant stand. They were on the other side of the fence & could not gain access. The police officer pepper sprayed my husband (and I can guarantee you that he was not on a looting mission) as far as we know no other bystanders. This happened after the ambulance, fire rescue etc. arrived and might I add the fire was completely extinguished. So the "crowd" that they are referring to was at that point nowhere near the scene. The rest of the story is even more shocking, but I just want to set the record straight that there was no possible public interference or obstruction. It was a very tragic accident, we pray for the pilot's speedy & full recovery.

      duane.low - 2012-05-03 07:50

      ok so he was the only one sprayed, and was helping..... i get that.... you cant tell half the shocking story?..... why would ANY police resort to pepper spray if the indevidual is helping? as it stands the first on any scene try help and when there are enough emergency personel the civilians are asked to step back. i know some take on a personal responsibilty as they were there first and refuse to back off? this why he was sprayed?

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