Korkie made a big impact in my life - Neethling

2014-12-08 12:12
Swimming legend Ryk Neethling. (News24)

Swimming legend Ryk Neethling. (News24)

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Johannesburg - Pierre Korkie had a great influence on Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling while he studied at Grey College in Bloemfontein.

"I spent a lot of time with him. He was one of the teachers I had the most interaction with at school," Neethling told Sapa in a telephone interview on Monday.

"He made a big impact in my life. You have a lot of teachers at school. He was always someone I remembered."

Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers were killed during an attempt by US special forces to free them from their al-Qaeda captors in Yemen in the early hours of Saturday.

Athletics and pupils

Korkie taught Neethling biology and was also his register class teacher. This is where pupils are marked present and administrative issues are dealt with before they go to their lessons.

"He was somebody that was firm. There was always discipline in his classes and he had a calmness about him," said Neethling.

"The respect he got was not a physical thing that he demanded, it was just the kind of reception he got. He was a real gentleman."

Neethling said Korkie was passionate about athletics and pupils loved him.

"Hundreds of boys, now men, all pay their respects to him. He had a very big impact."

Neethling said since Korkie had been captured it had been tough on everybody who knew him.

Neethling said the news of his death was devastating and he sent his condolences to the family.

Korkie had worked as a teacher at Grey College in Bloemfontein since 1982. Neethling matriculated from there in 1995.

$3m ransom

Grey College sent its condolences to the Korkie family.

"Our condolences go out to the family of former Grey teacher Pierre Korkie that was held hostage in Yemen," the institution said on its Twitter page.

Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped by militants in Taiz, Yemen, last May. Yolande was released on 10 January and returned to South Africa on 13 January. The Gift of the Givers helped negotiate her release. The kidnappers demanded a $3m ransom in exchange for Korkie's safe return.

At the time of the kidnapping, Korkie was a teacher in Yemen, while his wife did relief work in hospitals.

According to a White House statement on Saturday, US President Barack Obama said the rescue operation was necessary as Somers's life was in imminent danger.

He cited a video released by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Thursday in which they threatened to kill Somers within 72 hours.

The Gift of the Givers foundation, which helped in negotiating with al-Qaeda, said Korkie died a day before he was due to be released following a negotiated deal. Tribal families had been paid $200 000 in compensation for the deaths of their relatives, killed during a US drone attack, while trying to help free Korkie.

In a statement, Yolande said her husband's body was due to arrive in South Africa on Monday, and a memorial service would be held this week.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  gift of the givers  |  luke somers  |  barack obama  |  ryk neethling  |  pierre korkie  |  us  |  yemen  |  abductions

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