13 confirmed dead after plane crash

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Mandla Khoza

Tzaneen - Thirteen people, including two children, have been confirmed dead after two light aircraft crashed into the Lekgalameetse mountains in Limpopo.

According to Aeronautical Search and Rescue spokesman, Johnny Smith, the remains were found among the wreckage on Tuesday morning.

"We have found the wreckages ... with all 13 bodies of the people who were on board, including two children," said Smith.

Smith said a combined team of more than 150 rescue and search personnel, including the community of Tzaneen and surrounding areas, found the wreckage 70km from the Tzaneen airport.

He said the search involved 13 helicopters from the South African Air Force and more than 100 ground searchers from the Off Road Rescue Unit, the Tzaneen Disaster Management Centre, the South African Defence Force, the South African Police Service, farmers, community members and many other private and public rescue services.

Smith said the two aircraft, which were both heading to the Rand Airport in Germiston, went missing between Limpopo and Gauteng on Sunday at about 1:30pm after participating in an air show in Tzaneen.

He said the air search started on Tuesday morning after being hampered by bad weather on Sunday and Monday.

"On Monday we were forced to call off our air rescue team to work on the ground search as the weather was bad. But on Tuesday, with the help of helicopters, we managed to find the wreckage," said Smith.

Spokeswoman of the South African Civil Aviation Authority, Phindiwe Gwebu, said preliminary investigations revealed that the planes crashed against the mountains.

"Preliminary investigations have proven that the aircraft both crashed against the mountains and caught fire," said Gwebu.

Gwebu said the deceased, who will not be named until their relatives have been fully briefed and counselled, also included crew members who were also organisers of the air show.

She said victim support centres had been established in Tzaneen and at the Rand Airport for the families of the diseased to receive trauma counselling.

Gwebu said a report detailing the cause of the accident would be made available as soon as investigations have been concluded.

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