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Tragic Day for South African Aviation Community

SA-Crash
The two Piaggio P166 Albatross aircraft photographed at the Tzaneen Air Show on Saturday, August 13. Photo by Jeanne Michele

August 16, 2011 –South Africa’s tightly knit aviation community suffered a devastating loss last weekend when 13 people aboard two Piaggio P166 Albatross aircraft, including two children, died when the aircraft crashed in mountainous terrain on Sunday, August 14.

According to a statement by the SA Civil Aviation Authority, both aircraft took off from Tzaneen Airport at 10:30 a.m. after participating in the weekend’s Tzaneen Air Show, bound for Rand Airport in Johannesburg.

After the aircraft were reported missing at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday, SA Search and Rescue commenced, continuing periodically in what was described as “challenging” weather conditions.

The CAA was notified at 8:05 Tuesday morning that a police helicopter spotted wreckage of both aircraft in a mountainous area called Mamatswiri at around 7:15 a.m. The aircraft were reportedly lying 100 meters apart against the slopes of the Mamotswiri Peak region about 35 meters from the top.

“It would seem that the two aircraft crashed against a mountain and both aircraft sustained post impact fire,” according to the SACAA report.

Those on board the first plane, ZU MMI, were pilot Brian Gruar and passengers Marrion Anderson, Maddison and Alexandra Doak, Tess Spence, Louise Warden, and Kevin Woolacott.

On board the second plane, ZS NJX, were pilot Peter Gildenhuys, and passengers Stuart and Peter van Oldenburg, Frans Dely, Marietjie de Witt, and Linda Pierce. Dely was a well-known aviation photographer and owner of AvPix. Pierce was the fiancée of African Pilot magazine editor Athol Franz.

The aircraft were former South Africa Air Force planes and were on display at the Tzaneen Air Show.

EAA sends its thoughts and prayers to surviving family members and friends of the victims, as well as the entire South African aviation community.

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