Our members died for a good cause
July 23 2010
Misty weather could have caused the helicopter that left seven policemen dead to crash in Witbank on Friday morning, the department of police said.
"At this stage, speculation is that the huge mist within the vicinity of the area might have led to the cause of this accident," said Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's, spokesman Zweli Mnisi, in a statement.
The chopper, carrying five policemen, a police pilot and a crew member plunged to the ground before bursting into flames in a field near Verena Road, about seven kilometres outside Witbank.
Mthethwa, accompanied by national police commissioner General Bheki Cele visited the accident scene earlier on Friday.
According to Mnisi the policemen, from the national intervention unit, were responding to a robbery at a bakery in Witbank.
"At about 5am an alarm went off at Jabulani bakery. When police arrived at the scene, seven suspects who were robbing the bakery, started opening fire on police," he said.
Two helicopters, carrying members of the National Intervention Unit were then deployed to the incident scene, Mnisi said. One helicopter crashed killing the officers.
Mnisi said all seven suspects were later arrested.
Mthethwa expressed his condolences to the family and friend of the deceased.
"As a police family, we feel deeply robbed of dedicated and committed police officers. These members lost their lives doing what they did best, that is, safeguarding our society against vicious and heartless criminals.
"We shall forever remember their relentless dedication and never forget their invaluable contribution to the fight against crime."
Cele described the horrific accident as "tragic and stomach turning".
"It is an unfortunate situation but our members died for a good cause, ours is to carry the baton forward and win the war declared by criminals," Cele said.
A mortuary van was still on the scene just after 2pm.
Pieces of the chopper, including the engine, were scattered across a field, near a squatter camp, about seven kilometres outside the town.
The entire area had been cordoned off by police tape.
A team of more than 20 forensic pathologists and police officers was on the scene to determine what caused the helicopter to crash.
Chopper manufacturers, Eurocopter said the helicopter was a BK117 B1 model, registered as ZS-HMY with the Manufacturer Serial Number 7033. It was manufactured in 1983.
"The aircraft was powered by two Lycoming LTS-750B engines. The aircraft underwent scheduled maintenance in June this year."
Eurocopter said it had offered full technical assistance to the South African Police Services which is investigating the accident.
The policemen who died in the crash are the pilot, 31-year-old Captain Wikus Zaayman and his crew member, Warrant Officer Thinus Gouws, 39.
The members of the National Intervention Unit are 39-year-old Colonel Teboho Percy Maduna, 37-year-old Warrant Officer Colin Davids, 35-year-old Warrant Officer Dirk Cornelis van Aswegen, 28-year-old Sergeant Jacobus Henning and 31-year-old Sergeant Daniel "Kraai" de Bruin.
POSTED BY: CFC WESTERN-CAPE