Helicopter pilot killed while battling wildfire in South Africa

A helicopter pilot died in a crash October 23 while helping firefighters extinguish a wildfire in South Africa.

Nico Heyns, 65, was flying a Huey owned by Kishuga Aviation that was under contract to the firefighting agency Working On Fire.

The accident occurred the Vermaaklikheid area, about 40km from Riversdale, around 9:50 a.m.

Mr. Heyns was supposed to be off duty that day but interrupted his leave to help with the fire. The cause of the crash has not been determined.

Police spokesperson Captain Malcolm Pojie said, “Police had to arrange for the speedy removal of the body to save it from the fire that was engulfing the area.”

Mr. Heyns, a veteran pilot with more than 20 years experience, formerly owned Heyns Helicopter Service and was well known in the aviation community.

Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends, and co-workers.

Two firefighters die in South Africa helicopter crash

Two firefighters died when a helicopter crashed in South Africa on April 22, killing the pilot Darrel Rea (39) and crewmember Jastun Visagie (23).

A company spokesperson said, “While landing at the fire scene in strong winds the Bell UH-1H (Huey) impacted a mountainside in Bain’s Kloof close to Wellington”. They were landing in order to configure the helicopter to drop water.

Working on Fire Aviation CEO Johan Heine said: “We are saddened by the loss of a very experienced pilot and crew member and wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to families as well as colleagues and the firefighting fraternity”.

“Mr Rea‚ who was the chief pilot for WoF Aviation‚ had total helicopter flying time experience in excess of 3‚300 hours and had worked for WoF Aviation for the last eight years. All WoF pilots are recruited‚ selected and trained to the highest international standards‚” Heine said. Visagie joined Working on Fire in 2013.

WoF Aviation has been engaged in Aerial Fire Fighting in South Africa since 1986.

According to their website, WoF is a government-funded, job-creation program focusing on Intergrated Fire Management in South Africa. WoF fire fighters are recruited from marginalised communities and trained in fire awareness and education, prevention and fire suppression skills. These young men and women form veld and forest fire fighting ground crews, stationed at bases around the country to help stop the scourge of wildfire which costs the South African economy billions of rands annually.

Our sincere condolences go out to the families and co-workers of Mr. Rea and Mr. Visagie.

Helicopter pilot killed in crash in South Africa

South African Police ServiceThe South African Police Service issued the following statement about the firefighting helicopter pilot that died in the line of duty while working on a fire Saturday, March 7:

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“Western Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer has conveyed his sincere condolences on the passing of Colonel Hendricks Willem Marais who died when his helicopter crashed while water bombing a fire in the Cape Point Nature Reserve.

Colonel Marais worked as the first unit commander of the South African Police Service’ Airwing in Cape Town. He retired in 2004 at the age of 60. His former colleagues described him as a remarkable human being who was always prepared to help others. Colonel Marais was sworn in to the SAPS in 1990.

Lt General Lamoer remembers Col Marais as a pilot with strong work ethic, who was dedicated to his work. “He was affectionately called Bees and trained a number of police members with the Airwing environment. What an incredible human being he was. You could not miss his positive spirit. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, family and colleagues. He will be sorely missed. On behalf of the SAPS family we say may his Soul rest in peace.”

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Our sincere condolences go out to Colonel’s family and co-workers.