Pilot who died in crash came back from leave to help fight Garden Route fire

2018-10-24 10:42
Pilot Nico Heyns (Credit: Christopher Scott)

Pilot Nico Heyns (Credit: Christopher Scott)

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Nico Heyns, 65, the helicopter pilot who died on Tuesday fighting a fire, had interrupted his leave to help, Netwerk24 reported.

The Working on Fire (WoF) pilot was killed when his helicopter went down during firefighting efforts near Riversdale on Tuesday afternoon.

Heyns was killed in a crash in the Vermaaklikheid area, about 40km from Riversdale, around 09:50, while combatting a wildfire in the area along with more than 50 WoF firefighters, the Garden Route District Municipality, George Municipality, Gou Kou Farm Watch, and the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association.

The cause of the crash has not yet been established. 

Read: Firefighting pilot killed as helicopter goes down while fighting Garden Route blaze

Netwerk24 quoted Heyns' friend of more than 30 years, Gerhard Meyer from Oudtshoorn, who said that Heyns came back from leave to help put out the fire.

Patrick Hall, who flew with Heyns for many hours, shared on Facebook that they were saying goodbye "to a legend that saved many lives and property, a man that never gave up until the end".

He said he had never seen Heyns without a smile on his face.

Read more: This is the 'hero pilot' who died while fighting the Garden Route blaze

Praise for Heyns

Heyns was well known in the aviation world and often went above and beyond the call of duty.

News24 reported in 2016 that he "worked like a machine" for two days to stop fires that had threatened parts of the holiday towns of St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis.

Many sang his praises for the crucial role he played in preventing the blaze from reaching the Sea Vista informal settlement by scooping water from residents' swimming pools.

On Wednesday, IOL reported that an army helicopter would join firefighting efforts.

The fire has been raging since Sunday. So far, several homes have been destroyed, as well as multiple smaller structures.

The City of Cape Town's fire and rescue services have been put on standby to provide additional backup if required.

Members of the public have been urged to report fire outbreaks across the province as soon as possible using the emergency number 112. 

Read more on:    working on fire  |  cape town  |  accidents  |  fires

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