Businessman, sister killed in Vaal Dam chopper crash

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The NSRI rescue crew. (File photo: Jamey Gordon)
The NSRI rescue crew. (File photo: Jamey Gordon)
  • Two people died after a helicopter crashed into the Vaal Dam.
  • A man in a canoe paddled to the crash site and managed to pull the woman out of the wreckage, but she had not survived.
  • The pilot's body was removed from the wreckage later in the evening.

A businessman and his sister died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed into the Vaal Dam on Friday night.

"There was no warning," the Vaal Marina Community Policing Forum's (CPF) Kevin Prinsloo said on Saturday.

Prinsloo said a student fishing near the crash site got into his canoe and paddled frantically towards the burning helicopter. He managed to remove the woman but she had not survived the crash.

The body of the pilot was later found in the wreckage.

Two Beagle dogs were also found dead.

Netwerk24 reported the pilot was well-known businessman Essie Esterhuysen, who had been treating his sister, Dané, to a weekend away.

He had fetched her by helicopter in Wilderness in the Southern Cape on Friday.

As he was preparing to land, the helicopter apparently dropped into the water.

ALSO READ | Man, 66, drowns at Hermanus Lagoon

Esterhuysen was the founder and director of the Esgro Group, which specialised in starting franchises like Wimpy and Steers.

CPF member Wynand van der Walt was among the emergency support team members who rushed to the scene.

"I tried CPR but it was too late already," he said of efforts to help the woman.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre sounded the alarm and a massive rescue team, including police divers, Netcare 911 and ER24 ambulance services, was activated. 

Jacobus ‘Essie’ Esterhuysen, who is described as a
Jacobus "Essie" Esterhuysen, who is described as an experienced and safety-conscious pilot. Photo: Supplied

The NSRI also launched a rescue craft. The helicopter was found near the Vaal Marina, about 200 metres offshore.

"It is believed the helicopter was en route from Rand Airport to the Vaal Dam, with a Johannesburg pilot, his sister and two dogs," the NSRI said.

On Saturday, the NSRI Vaal Dam, police divers and officers, a police helicopter and Midvaal Fire and Rescue Services worked at the wreckage, under the guidance of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Prinsloo said the wreckage was lifted from the water on Saturday, and an investigation was under way.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said the Accident and Incident Investigations Division was notified of the crash at Sunset Cove.

"There were two occupants on board. Both occupants were fatally injured.

"The process of gathering more information that will assist in determining the cause of the accident has begun."

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