Investigation into heli crash could take months

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pretoria - It will be a few more months before the cause of the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of seven policemen can be determined.

Two members of the Pretoria Air Wing and five officers from the National Intervention Unit (NIU) were killed when the helicopter crashed and exploded in Witbank, Mpumalanga more than a week ago.

Colonel Teboho Percy Maduna, Warrant Officer Colin Davids, Warrant Officer Dirk Cornelis van Aswegen, Sergeant Jacobus Henning, Sergeant Daniel de Bruin, Captain Wikus Zaayman and Warrant Officer Thinus Gouws were responding to a robbery in Witbank when they were killed.

Zaayman, who was the pilot of the helicopter, and Gouws were part of the Pretoria Air Wing, while the remaining five men were members of the NIU.

Their helicopter crashed and exploded about 5km outside Witbank.

An investigation is currently underway into what caused the helicopter to crash but it is likely to be months before the families of the victims are any closer to knowing what led to the deaths of their loved ones.

"The investigation will take in the region of two months," police spokeswoman Brigadier Sally de Beer said.

Eurocopter, the German company that manufactures the helicopter that crashed, had also offered its "technical assistance" with the investigation, De Beer added.

She said safety officers from the police's Airwing were spearheading the investigation and would call in anyone else they deemed necessary.

During a memorial service to honour the seven policemen last week, Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele vowed that police, together with the relevant experts, would get to the bottom of the crash.

Cele said the investigation had begun on the day of the crash but it would take time to piece together what went wrong.