File photo: Adrian de Kock

Cape Town - The Working on Fire (WoF) project on Thursday paid tribute to the two crew members who died when their helicopter crashed in the Bain’s Kloof mountain range outside Cape Town whilst fighting a fire on Wednesday.

WoF identified the crew as pilot Darrel Rea, 39, and helicopter safety leader (HSL) Jastun Visagie, 23.

In a statement issued on Thursday, WoF said: “While landing at the fire scene in strong winds, to configure the helicopter into the fire-bombing role, the Bell UH-1H (Huey) piloted by Mr Rea impacted a mountainside in Bain’s Kloof close to Wellington.”

Working on Fire said it had provided ground and aerial teams to help combat the runaway veldfire which was in mountainous terrain between Wellington and Ceres. It said there had been strong winds at the time of the accident.

Rea is survived by his wife Angela, infant son and parents while Visagie is survived by his parents, brother and sister. WoF said Visagie joined Working on Fire in 2013 as a firefighter before being promoted to Crew Leader and later to a HSL.

WoF 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.

WoF Aviation, which has been doing aerial fire fighting in South Africa since 1986, said: “During the last 12 months South Africa has experienced its worst fire season in seven years, during which WoF Aviation has flown in excess of 4 700 hrs. It operates a fleet of UH-1H helicopters, Cessna fixed-wing command and control aircraft as well as Air Tractor 802-, Ayres Thrush- and Dromader fixed-wing water bombers.”

These aircraft types are ideally suited for aerial firefighting and have been performing reliably across the world it said, ading that WoF Aviation’s fleet provided an ideal mix of reliability and technological innovation.

“WoF Aviation places strong emphasis on maintenance and uses the services of a specialised, dedicated South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) accredited Aircraft Maintenance Organisation,” Heine said. “All Aircraft types are maintained to the highest International regulatory and Aircraft Manufacturers’ Standards.”

The cause of the accident was being investigated by the SACAA and Working on Fire Aviation.

Working on Fire said it had provided ground and aerial teams to help combat the runaway veldfire which was in mountainous terrain between Wellington and Ceres. It said there had been strong winds at the time of the accident.

ANA