Vintage: Three SAAF members were killed in June 2014 when their aircraft crashed into a mountainside in Mpumalanga
Three SAAF members died while two were injured when their military aircraft, a Cessna C208 Caravan, crashed at about 10h30am in Blystaanhoogte near the Longtom Pass between Sabie and Lydenburg in Mpumalanga on Tuesday, 17 June 2014. Major Tshepo Malia age 37, Captain Francois Hugo age 27 and Captain Marcelino Wembie age 28, were busy with operational training when their aircraft crashed near Mashishing. “The aircraft, which took off from Waterkloof, Pretoria, had five people on board, including two pilots,” said Brigadier Selvy Mohlala. Sergeant CB Mabusela age 36 and Corporal GD Ramasilo age 47, were injured and airlifted to Nelspruit Medi-Clinic. All five were members of 41 Squadron based in Pretoria. Employees at York Timber said they saw the SAAF Cessna Caravan C208 just before 10am, moments before it plummeted into the hillside. Paramedics said two people were flown to Nelspruit Medi-Clinic with serious back and neck injuries. The soldiers involved in the crash were among 95 SANDF officers that had been staying at a tented camp site at Lakeview Lodge in Nelspruit since 7 June 2014 and were set to book out on 22 June 2014.
“The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke and the Chief of the South African Air Force, Lieutenant General Zimpande Msimang would like to convey their sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of the deceased. They further wish the injured members a speedy recovery.”
According to the SAAF website, Squadron 41 is tasked with providing “professional, combat-ready light air transport capabilities to the RSA and all stake holders”. This included routine air transport and support, air logistic support, battlefield air support and emergency services in all weather, day or night.
Captain Francois Hugo age 26
He was eager to celebrate his third wedding anniversary in just three months. But on Tuesday, SA Air Force Captain Francois Hugo was killed when the plane he piloted crashed in a mountainous area between Lydenburg and Sabie in Mpumalanga. “We are all devastated,” said Hugo’s distraught stepmother, Maryna Hugo. When she heard about the aircraft crash from friends at about midday, she feared the worst. Then a few hours later, she received a phone call.
“They didn’t tell me what was going on… only that they needed to speak to either Hugo (her husband) or Elandi (her daughter-in-law),” she said. But her husband was not home, having left for Sierra Leone on Monday where he worked for a mining company. “Elandi took the call. She broke the news to me. Her husband Francois had been killed in the crash. He had been piloting the plane,” she said.
Elandi was too distraught to speak to the media.
Maryna said Hugo had written his entrance exams for the SAAF after he matriculated eight years ago in Ermelo, Mpumalanga. “It was always his dream to be a pilot and to join the military. I think it was the thrill of being able to fly a plane… a dream most boys fancy,” she said. She had been in Hugo’s life since he was just two years old. “He was also close to his biological mother who lives in Ladysmith. We are all devastated,” she said.
Her husband was trying desperately to get back to South Africa. “He only left on Monday. He has barely touched ground and has to come back.”
Sources: ENCA, IOL, Beeld