A Netcare medical rescue chopper has crashed between Ladysmith and Colenso in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.
Netcare confirmed the crash in a statement on Thursday afternoon, saying it claimed the lives of all on board.
“The whole of Netcare falls silent as we bow our heads in tribute, respect, love and memory of our fallen colleagues and frontline heroes who have died in the line of duty," said Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the families, loved ones and colleagues of 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; Sinjin Joshua Farrance, an advanced life support paramedic at Netcare 911, as well as the pilot of the helicopter, Mark Stoxreiter who worked for National Airways Corporation.”
Friedlands said the specialised ECMO intensive care rapid transfer team from Netcare Milpark in Johannesburg and Netcare 911, was aboard the Netcare 1 air ambulance en-route to Hillcrest in Natal to transfer a critically ill patient to Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg for specialised ECMO care.
“We are shocked beyond words at the tragic loss of these healthcare heroes. The whole of Netcare falls silent as we bow our heads in tribute, respect, love and memory of our fallen colleagues and frontline heroes who have died in the line of duty,” added Dr Friedland.
“There are no words adequate to describe our sense of enormous loss and grief at this terrible time. On behalf of Netcare and Netcare 911 management and staff, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the families of our colleagues. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this most difficult time,” commented Craig Grindell, managing director of Netcare 911.
He confirmed that the next-of-kin of the dead had been informed of their passing and that counselling is being offered to the families, colleagues and loved ones of the deceased. He asked members of the media to respect the privacy of the families and to bear with Netcare and Netcare 911 during this exceptionally difficult time.
Dr Richard Friedland, Craig Grindell and other senior executives of Netcare and Netcare 911 went to the scene of the accident immediately after being informed of the crash.
Netcare confirmed that the cause of the tragic accident will be investigated by the appropriate authorities
Claudine Senekal of the Ladysmith Herald reported from the scene on Thursday afternoon that police were searching the wreckage area for bodies.
The local Fire Department was busy putting out the flames around the crash site at the scene Fire fighters had fought the ablaze chopper, while SAPS from Search and Rescue including from Pietermartizburg swept the area, as bodies were found scattered along the scene.
Witnesses described the scene as incredibly sad.
Unconfirmed reports said the helicopter "exploded" in the air. A voice note being circulated said it "hit the floor and turned into a ball of flames". Videos from the scene indicate that the wreckage was spread over a wide area.
Police were waiting for a team from the Civil Aviation Authority to assess the scene.
Netcare had tweeted earlier today that a specialised hospital ambulance had been activated for an inter-provincial-hospital-transfer. It is believed to be the same helicopter that crashed.