Cape Town - Fire and rescue services called out to a veld fire near Melkbosstrand did not realise it had been started by a crashed gyrocopter until they found the plane’s wreckage and the pilot’s charred body.
The light aircraft crashed on the farm Blaauwberg between the Old Mamre-Darling road and the R27.
The pilot, said to have died on impact and burnt beyond recognition, is thought to have taken off from the nearby Morningstar Flight Academy.
Late on Tuesday, Civil Aviation Authority investigators were scouring the crash site for clues as to the cause.
Farm owner Seymour Currie said he and his brother-in-law Claude Cumley had seen the gyrocopter looping around the area earlier in the day.
“We noticed it flying quite low. I thought he had left the area. I believe he was a 24-year-old from Morningstar.”
Cumley said he was in the kitchen about 2pm when he saw smoke and raised the alarm.
He had seen the aircraft flying low.
“I thought it was a microlight and didn’t know if it was conducive for flying in the windy weather. He was at low altitude.
“I heard a thud, but didn’t know what had happened. It wasn’t like a big bang. And later I saw smoke.”
They only discovered it had crashed after the fire was extinguished.
When the Cape Argus arrived at the scene at 4.50pm, fire and rescue vehicles were leaving the area.
A forensic pathologist arrived at 5.22pm.
Theo Layne, from the City of Cape Town’s fire and rescue department, told the Cape Argus: “Just before 3pm we were called out to a vegetation fire, but when we were on our way there, we found there was a gyrocopter in the immediate vicinity.
“We located the gyrocopter and the pilot, but he was burnt beyond recognition.”
The crash had ignited the veld next to Blaauwberg Koppie.
“It was an extensive area of land burnt, fanned by a very strong south-easter,” Layne said. “But we managed to contain it before it reached the farmhouse, using two helicopters, two fire engines and two water tankers.
“We had the fire out by 5pm,” Layne said.