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SA and British authorities tight-lipped as BA crew member’s death remains a mystery

British Airways cabin crew member Robert Gay was found dead following a night out with friends hours after flying from Heathrow to Johannesburg. Supplied image.

British Airways cabin crew member Robert Gay was found dead following a night out with friends hours after flying from Heathrow to Johannesburg. Supplied image.

Published Feb 19, 2022

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Johannesburg - Gauteng police and the British High Commission in Pretoria remain tight-lipped about the death of British Airways cabin crew member Robert Gay.

The 52-year-old man was found dead following a night out with friends hours after flying from Heathrow to Johannesburg. Gay joined colleagues for food and drink following the 11-hour flight from London but was somehow separated from his friends during the course of their night out.

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His body was found on the pavement in Whiteley Street in Melrose. Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said Gay was found collapsed on the ground, unconscious.

“Paramedics battled to save his life but unfortunately they were unsuccessful. Police were called to a scene at Whiteley Street in Melrose on 5 February 2022 at 4am. On arrival they found the paramedics who were attending to a man who was found lying on the pavement. The paramedics later certified the man dead. He was found with no visible injuries. Police then opened an inquest docket for further investigation. Police are still waiting for post-mortem results that will confirm the real cause of death,” he said.

Meanwhile, several British newspapers led with the headline: “A British Airways cabin crew has been found dead on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa.”

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This does not bode well for the province and country as a tourist destination. Earlier this year Numbeo, the world's largest cost-of-living database, named Johannesburg as the seventh most dangerous destination in the world.

SA was behind only Caracas, Venezuela, Celaya, Mexico, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg (both in South Africa), and San Pedro Sula in Honduras.

British newspapers reported that Gay had no visible injuries and police could not confirm if any of his belongings were missing. It’s believed he was walking back to the crew hotel and got separated from his friends.

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Reports indicate that Gay may have suffered a heart attack although the post-mortem results are not available yet.

Spokesperson for the British High Commission in Pretoria, Isabel Potgieter, only said: "We are providing consular assistance following the death of a British man in South Africa.”

Johannesburg is renowned for its high crime rate and police have not ruled out that Gay may have been a victim of a crime. According to the Sun on Sunday newspaper in London, cabin crew have previously reported attacks when on layovers, describing parts of the city as “lawless”.

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One source said his family and colleagues are devastated.

“Rob was loved by everyone at BA. We are all in pieces. Security is being tightened for airline crews.”

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We're deeply saddened by this news and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with our colleague's family and friends at this sad time. We're providing support to all of our colleagues that may be affected by this sad news.”

Gay was described by a friend as the "nicest, kindest and most interesting gentleman".

“We had a wonderful evening with steak and wine and put the world to rights reminiscing about the good ol’ BA days. So shocked and saddened that you’re gone, Rob. You truly were one of the nicest, kindest and most interesting gentlemen I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

Social media has been abuzz since the news of Gay’s death, with people from around the world posting messages of sympathy and lamenting the crime rate in Johannesburg.

Tolani Fasehun said: “Hope they run an autopsy, could be some hidden health conditions. RIP to him.”

Ogunbor Osas posted: “May his soul rest in perfect peace. If he went out with his colleagues or friends they should be asked how come he was now found dead alone.”

Tsephe Letseka wrote: “RIP. I hope he wasn't murdered. That will just be another blotch on SA with its reputation as a crime haven.”

Ibràhïm Pêpë said: “May his soul rest in perfect peace.”

Christopher Mateche posted: “So sad may his soul rest in peace Amen.”

The Saturday Star

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