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5 things you need to know about the Netcare 911 helicopter crash

25 January 2021 - 10:00 By unathi nkanjeni
A Netcare 911 medical helicopter crashed in KwaZulu-Natal last Thursday, claiming the lives of all five people on board.
A Netcare 911 medical helicopter crashed in KwaZulu-Natal last Thursday, claiming the lives of all five people on board.
Image: Twitter / via @Abramjee

The SA Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) is investigating the site where a Netcare 911 helicopter crashed last week.

The aircraft crashed near Bergville, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, on Thursday, claiming the lives of all on board.

Here is what you should know:

Five died in the line of duty

Two doctors, a nurse, a paramedic and the pilot were en route to a hospital in Hillcrest, west of Durban, to transfer a critically ill patient to Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg for specialised care.

Netcare identified the victims as anaesthetist Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Sia) Mahlangu and specialist cardiothoracic and transplant theatre nurse Mpho Xaba.

Also killed were Sinjin Joshua Farrance, an advanced life support paramedic at Netcare 911, and pilot Mark Stoxreiter, who worked for National Airways Corporation.

Hours before death

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 revealed the news to eNCA.

“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.”

Worst fear realised 

The Sunday Times reported that Williams said the team prayed for years they would not be involved in a helicopter crash.

“We always said, ‘God, please don’t let that happen to us  because we can’t afford it in terms of manpower’,” said Williams.  

The accident left at least nine children without a parent and robbed SA of a world-class medical team.

“Whenever we go and do transplants we go as a team, and we have always been mindful that accidents like this one do happen,” said Williams.

“It did not happen with transplant patients, it happened with Covid-19. That makes it so sad.”

Loss for the country

Netcare group CEO Richard 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.”

Investigation

According to News24, Sacaa said they were currently collecting evidence that may indicate what caused the helicopter crash.

Sacaa said their investigators were visiting the site daily to collect evidence.  

“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.

Witnesses describe the KZN helicopter crash that claimed 5 lives

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