Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says he and the whole department were shocked to learn that that the cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Rudolph Mononyane, who assisted the emergency team with Minister Jackson Mthembu’s resuscitation, and his four rescue colleagues were killed in a rescue helicopter crash.
A Netcare medical rescue chopper crashed between Ladysmith and Colenso in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on Thursday afternoon. Netcare confirmed the accident in a statement on Thursday afternoon, and that the five people who were on board were all killed.
It was reported that the medical team, which included Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, an anaesthetist, Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Sia) Mahlangu a cardiothoracic surgeon and Mpho Xaba, a specialist theatre nurse for cardiothoracic and transplant, all from Netcare Milpark Hospital; as well as Sinjin Joshua Farrance, an advanced life support paramedic at Netcare 911, and the pilot of the helicopter, Mark Stoxreiter who worked for National Airways Corporation, had earlier that day treated Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu.
Mthembu died on Thursday from a Covid-19-related illness.
Mkhize said the circumstances surrounding this are particularly devastating as Dr Mononyane, along with his colleagues, were traveling in the helicopter to KwaZulu-Natal as a response team for another critically ill patient. “This was shortly after Dr Mononyane had delayed the flight to assist colleagues who were trying to stabilise Mthembu at Milpark Hospital.
“This is a tragic loss that has robbed the country of such highly skilled professionals who were prepared to put the lives of others before their own. I salute our departed colleagues and the pilot who fell in the line of duty. This country has weathered the Covid-19 storm because of the sheer dedication of professionals such as these,” said Mkhize.
The minister called on the aviation industry to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the helicopter crash so that we may never in future suffer such a devastating loss of valuable frontline responders who travel in emergency aircraft.
Kabelo Ledwaba from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) told Weekend Witness that the Accident and Incident Investigation team was on its way to the crash site.
Netcare has also paid tribute to the healthcare workers who died in the tragedy, saying that the fallen heroes would not be forgotten. Other health care workers also posted videos and messages on social networks paying tribute to the deceased.