A Working On Fire helicopter has crashed‚ killing one person‚ in the Vermaaklikheid area of the Garden Route while fighting fires that have raged there since the weekend. Linton Rensburg‚ communications manager at Working on Fire‚ said the Huey helicopter crashed around 09h45, but said “the cause of the accident is not yet known”.
According to the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM)‚ the fire has been deemed out of control. Officials warn that approximately 100 buildings‚ including thatched roof farm houses and other infrastructure‚ are at risk of becoming engulfed in the blaze. No evacuations are currently in place but the GRDM say that “the community is well aware of the danger”.
Western Cape minister of local government‚ environmental affairs and development planning‚ Anton Bredell‚ said in a statement the helicopter had crashed during firefighting operations and confirmed there had been one fatality. “The family‚ friends and the community of firefighters are in our thoughts at this time‚” he said.
At the planned media briefing scheduled for 15h00 at the Operations Centre in the Apostolic Church in Vermaaklikheid, Working on Fire is expected to speak about the death of renowned chopper pilot and WoF aerial fire fighter Nico Heyns. It has been reported that Heyns died this morning when his Huey helicopter plummeted to earth after presumably experiencing rotor trouble. The fire is nearing the Ops centre and fire fighters are scrambling to contain the blaze and keep it away from the village.
Having worked closely with several members of the Kishugu, Working on Fire operation over the past few years, this is a tragic accident and on behalf of African Pilot we send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Nico Heyns.