Civil aviation investigators at the scene where a plane crashed in Kameeldrift. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA
Pretoria - The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has pleaded for space and time to investigate the cause of the aircraft crash in Pretoria which claimed two lives and left 19 other victims injured. It has transpired that the plane, a historic Convair 340 which crashed shortly after take-off from Wonderboom airport on Tuesday afternoon, had belonged to the luxury train company Rovos Rail, which until 2009 used it to transport guests.

At the time of the crash it was eagerly awaited by Aviodrome in The Netherlands where it was due to travel to a Lelystad museum, making a number of stops in Zambia, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, Croatia and Austria. It was believed to be on a test flight on Tuesday, with the departure date set for on Thursday.

According to the Aviodrome website, the Convair - which was built in 1945 - was donated to it by Rovos owner Rohan Vos. An amount of around R5.5million had been spent restoring and preparing the aircraft for the crossing to the museum where it was to have been used as a tourist attraction. Vos’s daughter, Brenda, said a representative of Aviodrome was en route to South Africa. They could not comment at this stage.

According to the manifesto, there were 14 South Africans, three Dutch nationals and two Australian nationals on board. Aviodrome has expressed its sympathy to the victims and their families. It announced that three of its technicians on board had been discharged from hospital after treatment. Two people have been confirmed dead: one in the plane and one from the factory. It is understood that one of the pilots died.

Victims in the plane were cut out with the jaws of life and taken by helicopter or ambulance to various hospitals. One other victim had been on the ground.

The Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement on Wednesday that the plane was registered in South Africa and had a flight worthiness licence that was valid until August 15. Emergency vehicles and aviation forensic investigators could be seen at the scene of the crash in Kameeldrift East on Wednesday. The SACAA said it needed time for the investigation.

SACCA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said investigations could vary in complexity and take a significant time to complete. However, a preliminary report would be issued within 30 days, he said. Although the area was cordoned off, witnesses were keen to share their experience of seeing the plane, with smoke trailing from an engine before it crashed into a factory.

Father and son Len and Mynnhardt van der Waltsleben, who were on the Moloto Road, said they saw the plane starting to tilt as it was about to crash. We heard a loud bang and then my son and I ran towards the scene. When we arrived there was chaos. There was smoke, fire parts of the plane were scattered all over,” said Len, who returned to the scene yesterday.

Other witnesses, Clever Thakawilar and Heron Moyo, said they saw the plane clip a power line. After the crash some passengers exited the plane through the windows. There has been relief that the toll was not higher.

“The completion of an investigation is marked by the release of a final accident report, which would contain safety recommendations aimed at improving the levels of aviation safety and prevention of a similar accident,” Ledwaba said.

The Convair 340 dates to the period after World War II and represents the then boom in passenger air travel. KLM owned 24 of these planes and it was used as a charter plane by Martin’s Air - hence the livery.

Pretoria News