Premier sends condolences to families of helicopter crash

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pietermaritzburg - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize has conveyed his condolences to the families and friends of the three South African Air Force (SAAF) members who died in a helicopter crash on Tuesday.

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.

Premier Mkhize said the news of the accident and subsequent deaths of these three members had left the provincial government with a profound feeling of sorrow.

"We join their families, colleagues and friends who mourn their untimely death, they were a perfect example of patriotic South Africans and they will be sincerely missed. May their departed souls rest in peace," Dr Mkhize said on Thursday.

The Premier further called upon all public servants to honour their memory by continuing to display commitment and hard work.

The South African National Defence Force divers and the South African Police Service search team retrieved the remains of Captain Bongani Mdluli, one of the three pilots, on Wednesday.

Captain Mdluli aged 34, was from the 17 Squadron based at Air Force Base Swartkop in Pretoria.

Captain Mdluli, from Riverlea in western Johannesburg, joined the SAAF in 2000 and received his pilots' wings in 2003.

Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi told BuaNews on Thursday that the bodies for other aircrew have not been retrieved.

"We've resumed the search again this morning, we are devastated, it is a huge loss for us as there are few people who know how to fly," Mr Mkwanazi said.