Tributes poured in on Sunday for three men who died when a light aircraft crashed in Camperdown on Saturday afternoon.
It has emerged that two of the three men, identified as Kim Gibbings and Craig Smit, were from Durban. They were being flown in a Ravin 500 aircraft to Durban’s Virginia Airport from Wonderboom in Pretoria when the plane crashed. The aircraft was apparently piloted by Pretoria instructor Hennie Coetzee.
Speculation was rife on Sunday as authorities scanned the scene for clues to the cause of the accident.
Netcare 911 spokesman Santi Steinmann said the plane burst into flames after crashing to the ground.
“The plane was burnt beyond recognition,” she said.
Noel McDonogh of Light Flight Flying Services in Cato Ridge posted on Facebook that Gibbings and Smit had recently bought the aircraft.
“They were heading from FAPM (Wonderboom) to FAVG (Virginia) via Emoyeni (Camperdown). They did a fast low beat up down rnw 15 at Emoyeni and the left wing broke off. All 3 bodies were thrown out of the plane and unfortunately all died… very tragic,” he wrote.
On Sunday, people watched as a helicopter retrieved mangled debris from a sugar cane field. They remained tight-lipped about the incident, referring The Mercury to police.
Police spokesman Jay Naicker said the cause was not yet known and advised contacting the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for more information.
CAA spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba referred queries to the Department of Transport, which did not respond to requests for comment.
A source in Camperdown said “it seems like they wanted to show it (the aircraft) to their friends” at the private airstrip.
Henk Kraaij, of Blue Chip Flight School in Pretoria, said Captain Hennie Coetzee, 35, the aircraft instructor, was his co-director of the flight school, responsible for its day-to-day running.
According to the school’s website, Coetzee was one of its founding members and had a BCom degree in aviation management and an airline transport licence with a Grade 2 instructor’s rating.
Kraaij said Coetzee was an “experienced” and “cautious” pilot with experience in a variety of aircraft. He last saw Coetzee on Friday and was unaware he would fly on Sunday.
He said Coetzee was survived by his wife, Marisa, and two daughters, aged 11 months and 2 years.
Hennie’s wife, Marisa Coetzee, said on Facebook: “Thank you for all the times we spent together. God has spoiled us and I am grateful.”
Leanne Wallace wrote of Smit: “Craig, you were an honourable man, fantastic father to Josh and Sarah, a husband in a million to Jean, and a source of love for Nikki and Monica. My friend, you’ll be so dearly missed. We’ll be thinking of you and will do our part to keep your legend alive.”
Gibbings’s brother Kevin said: “Wish I could’ve said goodbye… there were some good times, cheers bru.”
Last month, the CAA expressed concern about a recent spate of aircraft accidents that have claimed 11 lives since January.