Cause of Plettenberg Bay plane crash still a mystery

KRISTEN VAN SCHIE

What caused the February plane crash that killed nine people, including top executives of the Italtile group?

Eight months later, investigators are still asking that question, even though they have completed preliminary investigations.

The Civil Aviation Authority report appears to point to the weather as the main cause of the accident. But it also indicates that no distress call was received at any point during the flight.

The plane was not fitted with a flight data recorder, nor a cockpit voice recorder, and a memory card that could have tracked the engine-trend data was damaged by sea water.

Even so, according to the report, “there were no indications of any pre-impact mechanical anomalies or dysfunction to any of the (engine) components observed”.

There was no alcohol in the pilots’ blood, no fire on board, no eyewitnesses to the crash.

The investigation continues into the February 8 crash, when a Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop plane crashed into the sea just off the coast of the Robberg Nature Reserve near Plettenberg Bay.

All nine people on board – pilot Bronwyn Parsons and co-pilot Alison van Staden; Italtile CEO Gianpaolo Ravazzotti and employees Gia Celori, Marilize Campion and Aletsia Krause; Alberton CTM manager Jody Jansen van Rensburg; Grainwave general manager Simon Hirschberg; and Prima Bella Bathroom Accessories owner Sava Di Bella – were killed.

The day before the accident, the plane was fuelled to capacity at Lanseria Airport.

The passengers were travelling to several meetings throughout the day: Lanseria to Newcastle, Newcastle to Queenstown.

At 3.29pm, the plane left Queenstown for Plettenberg Bay Aerodrome. The estimated time of arrival was 4.30pm.

But at 4.32pm a passenger made a 37-second cellphone call to someone on the ground: the plane was being diverted to George instead, presumably due to the foggy, rainy weather over Plettenberg Bay. But the plane never arrived in George.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba said: “According to the available information, the last communication between the aircraft and Cape Town Area East was at 4.33pm.”

About 30 seconds later it disappeared from the radar.


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