Body of deceased SAAF member found

Thursday, May 14, 2009

KwaZulu-Natal - The remains of one of the three South African Air Force (SAAF) pilots, who died in a fatal helicopter crash in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, has been retrieved.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Service search team retrieved the remains on Wednesday.

According to the Department of Defence and Military Veterans, the crash, involving the Agusta A109 helicopter, was en route to Dragon's Peak Park, flying past the upper Tugela River when it plunged into the Woodstock Dam and sank.

Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi, told BuaNews the name of the SAAF member will be announced as soon as he is identified.

"A similar procedure will be followed regarding the release of the names of the members whose remains are yet to be retrieved," he said, adding that the search for the other bodies was continuing.

The cause of the accident is still unknown, Mr Mkhwanazi said, adding that the department has since convened a Board of Enquiry to investigate the cause of the accident.

The Agusta A109 helicopter is one the helicopters acquired as part of the department's Strategic Arms Procurement Package approved by Cabinet in 2001.

In 2007, the department received seven of the 30 ordered Agusta A109 Light Utility Helicopters.

Among other things, the package also included the Gripen, Hawk and the SA Navy's shipborne Super Lynx helicopters, as well as the Rooivalk and Oryx.