Bodies of SAAF pilots found

Monday, May 18, 2009
By: 
Edwin Tshivhidzo

Pretoria - The bodies of the South African Air Force (SAAF) pilots who crashed into the Woodstock Dam in KwaZulu-Natal last Tuesday, have been recovered.

Three SAAF pilots had been flying in an Agusta A109 helicopter en route to Dragon's Peak Park in the upper Tugela River when the aircraft plunged into the Woodstock Dam and sank.

A major search and rescue operation was launched, with the body of Captain Bongani Mdluli, 34, found last Thursday.

Captain Mdluli, from 17 Squadron based at Air Force Base Swartkop in Pretoria, was the commander of the Agusta A109.

The two remaining bodies were recovered on Saturday.

The body of flight sergeant Mone Zuidmeer, 32, was recovered at approximately 8am after being spotted by local inhabitants floating in the river.

Sergeant Zuidmeer from Centurion in Pretoria joined the SAAF in 1997 and received his Flight Engineer Wings in 2005. He completed his Flight Engineer Course in 2006 and received his Silver Flight Engineer Wings in 2008. He is survived by his parents and a sister.

The body of Lieutenant Simon Baloyi, 27, was found as 11:15am about 300 meters from the wreckage after being spotted by a pilot during an aerial search.

Lieutenant Baloyi, who was from Majaneng in Hammanskraal, joined the SAAF in 2002 and received his Pilot Wings in 2005. He is survived by his mother, two sisters and a brother.

According to the Department of Defence and Military Veterans, funeral arrangements for both the deceased will be announced soon.

A Board of Enquiry has been convened to investigate the cause of the accident.