KZN helicopter crash: A tribute to five remarkable lives cut short

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Families and colleagues gather at site of helicopter tragedy to honour those who lost their lives.
Families and colleagues gather at site of helicopter tragedy to honour those who lost their lives.
Netcare 911

"Six painful days punctuated with deep shock and disbelief" on Wednesday culminated in a moving ceremony for the five men who lost their lives in a tragic helicopter accident near Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal last week.

A press release from Netcare, said it was a long, emotional day for the families, loved ones and colleagues of "healthcare heroes Rudolf, Siya, Mpho, Sinjin and pilot Mark". The mourners travelled in convoy from Johannesburg to the crash site in the UThukela District early on Wednesday morning.

ALSO READ | WATCH | Medical fraternity mourns death of five colleagues who died in KZN helicopter crash

"A cloud-covered day dawned over the city and the Hillbrow Tower was appropriately shrouded in mist as the vehicles made their sombre journey to a remembrance service for the five fallen heroes. Along the route, colleagues from emergency medical services, the South African Police Service and members of the public silently stood vigil as the convoy passed.

"In a field, on a farm near Winterton, five white crosses now mark the place where Dr Kgopotso Rudolf Mononyane, Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Siya) Mahlangu, Mpho Xaba, all from Netcare Milpark Hospital, Sinjin Joshua Farrance of Netcare 911 and Mark Stoxreiter from National Airways Corporation (NAC) died in the line of duty," said the press statement.

helicopter crash
Five white crosses now mark the place where Dr Kgopotso Rudolf Mononyane, Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Siya) Mahlangu, Mpho Xaba, all from Netcare Milpark Hospital, Sinjin Joshua Farrance of Netcare 911 and Mark Stoxreiter from National Airways Corporation (NAC) died in the line of duty.
helicopter crash
Families and colleagues gather at site of helicopter tragedy to honour those who lost their lives.

In paying tribute to his colleagues, Netcare Group CEO, Dr Richard Friedland said, “We are here today to bear testimony to the lives of these great human beings, to continue their unfinished legacy of healing and bringing hope.

“At this hallowed site, their heroic and remarkable lives were cut short and a gaping hole remains. We will never be able to adequately articulate the magnitude of this loss nor make sense of it, and yet we are left with that impossible task as we reach out our arms to you, their loved ones, in hope and comfort.

“These five selfless and extraordinary individuals were on a mercy mission doing [God’s] holy and sacred work, saving lives. This was their calling, their purpose. There is no greater act of humanity than to lose one’s life in attempting to rescue the life of another. We know [God] uses good people to do great things, and we need not look any further than these young, talented, extraordinary individuals who embody what it means to be a hero. Every day for them was an act of courage and they were the personification of strength, compassion and grace.

“Our hearts are broken, we mourn the loss of these fallen heroes, these frontline workers who have given so selflessly, so courageously of themselves. Our hearts are shattered for you, their families, children, loved ones, friends and colleagues whom they have left behind.

“Our thoughts too are with our beloved colleagues at Netcare 911, Netcare Milpark Hospital and NAC. The national outpouring of grief is testimony to the enormous contribution that Mpho, Rudolf, Siyabonga, Sinjin and Mark have made, each in their own unique way,” added Dr Friedland.

ALSO READ | Letters | Helicopter tragedy has affected us all

Reading from Maya Angelou’s poem, When great trees fall, Craig Grindell, Managing Director of Netcare 911, added his voice to a deeply meaningful and poignant ceremony, attended only by close family members and accompanying colleagues of the dead.

The programme director for the day was Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba, Group Human Resources Director of Netcare, while the choir of Netcare St Anne’s Hospital performed a poignant musical tribute.

The statement said a prayer and words of comfort were provided by Pastor Craig Hounson and Pastor Abraham Masinga, while David Stanton, Head of Clinical and Education of Netcare 911, explained the significance of the five indigenous trees that were planted at the site of the accident.

These five indigenous trees were planted here as a living memorial to represent the five diverse and loved individuals. They will continue to grow and bloom every season to commemorate their memories and their lives. Trees provide life in many forms, from being a source of food, shelter, oxygen and medicine, as well as being held in many cultures as spiritually important and often revered.

“The ancient symbol of the tree has been found to represent physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation, liberation and union. Trees represent resilience, as a tree bends in the storm just as we weather the daily struggles of life.

“These significant trees will grow here, thriving and providing their shade and nourishment to all those who visit. These trees planted here are real living things, serving as a growing memorial to the lives of our five brave heroes,” said Stanton.

ALSO READ | UPDATED | Netcare releases names of medics who died in KwaZulu-Natal chopper crash

Dr Friedland pledged to the families that Netcare would find a way to ensure that the lives of Mpho, Rudolf, Siyabonga, Sinjin and Mark continue to bring light to this world. 

“We will continue to carry you all in our hearts, and we stand here before you steadfast in our commitment to walk in their footsteps, to honour their legacies for you and your children. May they be carried on the wings of angels to their rightful place in heaven. May their beloved souls rest in peace. Hambani Kahle MaQhawe,” said Dr Friedland.

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