18 January 2006

South Africa: Divers to recover body - advanced sonar equipment to be used

Divers will try on Wednesday to recover the body of a Cape businessman and father of two sons from his watery grave along the Peninsula coast after his helicopter crashed into the sea on Tuesday.

The body of Marthinus Erasmus, 40, of Plattekloof in the northern suburbs is presumably still entangled in the wreckage of the two-seater Robinson R22 helicopter, in which he was apparently taking his first solo flight.

The extensive search for his body in the sea near Cape Point, in which police and navy divers took part, was called off on Tuesday at 20:00 after more than seven hours.

The search would resume on Wednesday morning if the weather conditions were favourable, said National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson Craig Lambinon.

Erasmus's wife Hannelie was apparently visiting in the Free State. The couple's sons are two and four years old.

An acquaintance said Erasmus had been a pupil pilot for a considerable time and was taking his first solo flight on Tuesday. He was a qualified attorney, but did not practice.

Tourists in shock
Simon's Town NSRI station manager Darren Zimmerman said about ten people had seen the black private helicopter crash into the sea at about 10:15. Divers searched for Erasmus's body and pieces of wreckage about 800m from the coast. A magnetometer, which measures small variances in the earth's magnetic field, was used to search for the pieces of wreckage.

He said so far only a helicopter seat and a file with information about a plane had been found. He could not give any information about the cause of the accident.

One of the pilot's friends, who wishes to remain anonymous, confirmed at a look-out point near the scene of the accident that his friend Erasmus was the pilot in the helicopter that had crashed. He refused to say anything more.

Shocked tourists and staff of the Table Mountain National Park stared fixedly at the calm sea for hours, waiting for a sign of a body being found.

Helga Hill, who saw the crash happening while she and a group were walking in the park, said ''the whole accident is unreal''.

Helicopter turned twice in the air
"It was as if I was watching TV."

The group said two helicopters were flying fairly low over the water. A military helicopter flew in front, followed by the Robinson R22.

Hiker Hilary Bryan said the private helicopter suddenly flew lower, as if "the pilot was going to do aerobatics".

"It looked as if the helicopter's engines stopped and then it nose-dived vertically into the sea. Then everything was quiet and gone."

She said the pilot(s) in the military helicopter flew on.

She phoned the fire brigade.

Hill said all she could think of now was the pilot's poor family.

Park baboon monitor Luthando Mase said the helicopter turned twice in the air and then fell into the sea. Only ripples on the surface of the water could be seen, then nothing.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Billy Jones said the pilot was presumably the only one on board the helicopter. He did not want to confirm the pilot's name.

Source: www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News

Advanced sonar equipment to be used
Rescue teams will be using advanced sonar equipment today when they resume the search for the wreck of the helicopter which crashed into the sea off Cape Point yesterday. It is believed that the body of the 44-year old trainee pilot is still trapped in the wreckage.

The search was suspended last night. Craig Lambinon, the NSRI spokesperson, says police and Navy divers have recovered pieces of wreckage. The pilot is believed to have been alone on board the Robertson R-22 helicopter.

Source: www.sabcnews.com/south_africa/general


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