Five killed in Netcare medical helicopter crash near Bergville, KwaZulu Natal
A Netcare medical helicopter crashed near Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, 21 January 2021, tragically claiming the lives of all five people on board. “Netcare is profoundly saddened to confirm the passing of five valued colleagues who tragically died in the line of duty in a helicopter crash near Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal this afternoon,” said Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare. “Our deepest sympathies are with the families, loved ones and colleagues of Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, an anaesthetist, Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Sia) Mahlangu a cardiothoracic surgeon and Mpho Xaba, a specialist theatre nurse for cardiothoracic and transplant, all from Netcare Milpark Hospital; Sinjin Joshua Farrance, an advanced life support paramedic at Netcare 911, as well as the pilot of the helicopter, Mark Stoxreiter who worked for National Airways Corporation. The specialised ECMO intensive care rapid transfer team from Netcare Milpark in Johannesburg and Netcare 911, was aboard the Netcare 1 air ambulance en-route to Hillcrest in Natal to transfer a critically ill patient to Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg for specialised ECMO care. We are shocked beyond words at the tragic loss of these healthcare heroes. The whole of Netcare falls silent as we bow our heads in tribute, respect, love and memory of our fallen colleagues and frontline heroes who have died in the line of duty,” added Dr Friedland.
Earlier that day, Mononyane had teamed up with other medics and attempted to resuscitate the late minister in presidency, Jackson Mthembu, before he died from complications related to COVID-19. Health minister Zweli Mkhize said, “One of the doctors who died in the crash was called by a friend, Dr Paul Williams, to assist to save minister Mthembu during that difficult time,” said Mkhize. “He dropped the trip. His team waited and delayed the flight. He came back to help minister Mthembu. They worked very hard. Mononyane came together with other doctors to do everything they could to support the minister. Unfortunately, after he flew out he had a fatal accident.”
Dr Friedland said this was not just a loss for Netcare, the medics’ families and colleagues but the entire country. Paying tribute, Friedland said the four health workers and pilot were “talented, extraordinary individuals who embody what it means to be a hero”. “These brave, selfless, frontline heroes were on a mercy mission to save the life of a desperately ill patient dying of COVID-19 pneumonia. But as we all know, a catastrophic tragedy occurred and they died tragically in the most devastating of accidents. This was their calling and they have answered the highest call. There is no greater act of humanity than to lose one’s life in attempting to rescue another.”
The South Africa Civil Aviation Authority said they were collecting evidence that may indicate what caused the helicopter crash. “Since the accident happened, the team of aircraft accident and incident investigators have been at the site on a daily basis collecting evidence which will help in determining the cause of the accident,” said SACAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba.
Dr Friedland confirmed that “Netcare and NAC can confirm that technical teams from Bell, the helicopter manufacturer and Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of the helicopter’s engines, will be arriving in South Africa to assist with the investigation of the accident on Wednesday. As the operator of the helicopter, Bell’s Independent Representative and Customer Support Facility and Rolls-Royce’s Authorised Maintenance Centre for the region, NAC is giving its fullest support and cooperation to the South African Civil Aviation Authority, who has already begun their investigation.”
A private visit took on Wednesday to the scene of the accident for the families of the fallen heroes who passed away. A convoy left from Johannesburg, transporting the families of the deceased, as well as colleagues from Netcare and National Airways Corporation (NAC) to the site. The mourners travelled in convoy from Johannesburg to the crash site in the UThukela District early in the morning.
The vehicles made their sombre journey to a remembrance service for the five fallen heroes. Along the route, colleagues from emergency medical services, the South African Police Service and members of the public silently stood vigil as the convoy passed.
In a field, on a farm near Winterton, five white crosses now mark the place where Dr Kgopotso Rudolf Mononyane, Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Siya) Mahlangu, Mpho Xaba, all from Netcare Milpark Hospital, Sinjin Joshua Farrance of Netcare 911 and Mark Stoxreiter from National Airways Corporation (NAC) died in the line of duty. Five indigenous trees were planted by David Stanton, Head of Clinical and Education, Netcare 911 in commemoration of the lives lost.
In paying tribute to his colleagues, Netcare Group CEO, Dr Richard Friedland said, “We are here today to bear testimony to the lives of these great human beings, to continue their unfinished legacy of healing and bringing hope.
The hearses with the departed heroes arrived at the site of the accident prior to returning to Johannesburg.
Several emergency medical services including Netcare took part in convoys and flybys during the past week in commemoration of the five lives lost.
Source: Netcare and Netcare 911