File Cameron Dalziel, who was killed in the MH17 flight that was blown up over Ukraine, seen here with his wife Reine and one of his sons, name not known

Cape Town - For more than a decade, the family of pilot Cameron Dalziel clearly understood the danger of his work - as he flew choppers in some of the world’s disaster hot spots.

When the tsunami hit Thailand on December 26, 2004, it wasn’t long before Dalziel was there, in the air, based at the worst-hit area of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, as part of the urgent international rescue.

When earthquakes hit Pakistan in 2005, and, later, China, when floods repeatedly hit Borneo, and Mozambique in 2000, when South African pilots played an acclaimed role in saving countless lives, when bush fires raged in France and Spain - Dalziel was airborne, helping to save lives.

In the words of rescue expert and paramedic trainer Neil Noble of Australia, Dalziel was easily “one of the world’s best rescue helicopter pilots”.

“Because of the nature of his work, it became ingrained in us to know exactly where he was,” a family member told the Cape Argus on Sunday

“I was sitting in a pub in Dubai, and a friend was scrolling the news on her phone, when we heard about the Malaysia Airlines flight. I phoned my parents in uMhlanga Rocks, and my mom said Cameron was in Amsterdam, and only due to leave there on Friday,” the family member said.

But hours later, the family faced the awful truth.

“My mom phoned and said: ‘Your brother was on that plane.’

“We had always understood the risks of his work as a pilot in disaster zones around the world.

“And here he was, on a civilian airliner… and the next thing you know he’s hit by a missile. That’s what we’re having to come to terms with, as a family.”

The family sent a photograph of Dalziel and his wife, Reine.

“That’s the way we remember him. We absolutely loved him to bits…” the family member said.

At the time of publication on Sunday night the family had still not been formally notified by Malaysia Airlines, or any other authorities.

“We suspect it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process to learn of the details,” the family member said.

Cape Argus