Plane crashes into bakkie

2009-06-09 08:28

Johannesburg – Five people miraculously survived an accident outside Krugersdorp on the West Rand on Sunday, when a light aircraft crashed into a bakkie and started to burn.

The accident was presumably caused by the fact that the two-seater Piper Cherokee wasn’t able to reach the correct altitude in time.

Pilot John Thompson, 56, and his passenger, George Carney, took off from Jack Taylor air field in Delporton and were flying in the direction of the Percy Stewart water purification works.

The aircraft probably started to fall after they turned back towards the town.

Meanwhile, Monica Braganca, 31, and Anna Vaulino, 26, were driving along Hillclimb Avenue in the direction of the water purification works, in a Ford Ranger bakkie. Tony van Aswegen, 31, was sitting on the back of the bakkie.

They were on their way to pick up six men who were using their freeboards (which look like longer-length skateboards) to “ski” down a nearby slope.

Convinced we were going to die

“I stopped immediately when I saw the plane coming closer from my right side. I pulled the emergency brake and the plane hit us head-on,” said Braganca. “Anna was convinced we were going to die.”

Van Aswegen was thrown off the back of the bakkie by the impact. The women were able to escape through an open window and were not injured.

The men who were waiting to be picked up saw what happened and raced towards the aircraft.

They managed the pull the pilot and the passenger from the burning wreck.

“There was no time to be scared,” said Jonathan Herbst, 25, one of the freeboarders, on Monday. He is an instructor at Pure Rush Industries which provides freeboarding training.

“We were busy with a lesson when suddenly there was a deafening crash,” he said. “When I turned around, the burning plane and the bakkie were just a few metres away from us.”

Herbst saw that Braganca and Vaulino were safe and realised there were still two people inside the plane.

Pilot unconscious

“The passenger had started climbing out on his own, but the other man was trapped. I saw that he was bleeding quite badly, and the plane was on fire.” According to Herbst they had to work quickly, since Thompson was unconscious and his seatbelt was still in place.

“We aren’t heroes – what we did was actually kind of stupid. But at that moment, you just want to get the guys out of there.”

By Monday afternoon, Thompson was in a stable condition. Elaine Rix, spokesperson for the Netcare Olivedale clinic, said he will undergo surgery on Tuesday afternoon to repair fractures in his face.

Carney is in a stable condition at the Netcare Krugersdorp private hospital.