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A South African Air Force Oryx helicopter carrying crash investigators arrives at the scene of the Cessna crash in the Blystaanhoogte mountains Image by: STEEL BURGER/LYDENBUG NEWS

Air force crash mystery

Date: 18 June 2014

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By Graeme Hosken

A routine air force training flight turned into a disaster yesterday morning when the aircraft crashed into an Mpumalanga mountain, killing its two crew and a passenger.

The Cessna Caravan C208 from 41 Squadron, which is based at Waterkloof Air Force Base, Pretoria, ploughed into the slopes of Blystaanhoogte, not far from Lydenburg.

Two passengers, believed to be air force ground personnel, were airlifted from the scene, which is close to the Long Tom Pass, to a Nelspruit clinic where they are in a critical condition.

Aviation and military investigators are trying to discover the cause of the crash. The pilot was highly experienced.

The weather was perfect for flying and the aircraft is said to have been serviced recently. No distress call was made.

An air force source said the crew were flying the plane out of a deep and narrow valley.

Said the source: "It appears as though the plane might have suddenly lost engine power, crashing into a gulley before catapulting onto a service road of York Plantations.

"It flew straight into the side of the mountain.

"The impact was severe; the aircraft was totally mangled. There is nothing left.

"The fact that some survived is a miracle," he said.

"Suddenly radio contact was lost. The aircraft simply vanished off the radar. It was then that the alarm was raised."

Mountain rescue personnel, medics, soldiers and police raced to the scene high in the mountains.

The crash site was cordoned as rescuers spent hours trying to remove the bodies from the wreckage.

Nelspruit Mediclinic spokesman Robyn Baard said both survivors had multiple injuries.

Defence force spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga said: "The personnel were participating in an operations training camp in the Lydenburg area.

"A preliminary investigation has begun and will be followed by a board of inquiry to determine the accident's cause."

The names of those killed have not been released.

Police spokesman Brigadier Selvy Mohlala confirmed that the pilot, co-pilot and a passenger were killed.

"The crash happened at 10.30am, high in the mountains between Lydenburg and Sabie. The weather was fine ... the plane flew directly into the mountain."

Military expert Helmoed Heitman said the high number of military air accidents was worrying.

"It could partly be because we are not flying enough.

"The pilots are not getting enough flying hours and experience.

"[The military has] also lost a lot of experienced people who are the ones who should be mentoring the younger and more inexperienced pilots."

Source: Times Live


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