We are heartbroken to report that a Working on Fire helicopter pilot – Hendrik Marais (known to his friends as ‘Bees’) – has lost his life fighting in the Cape Point fire today.
Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) said “we have tragically lost a brother in our firefighting family today. Hendrik Marais will be fondly remembered by the men and women of the VWS who have served with him. Our deepest condolences to the Marais family and all at Working on Fire.”
About half an hour ago, the Minister of Environmental Affairs Ms Edna Molewa, released the following statement:
“It is with great sadness that we must announce that one of the Working on Fire helicopters which has been active in the Cape Town fires, has made a forced landing and that the pilot of the helicopter, Mr Hendrik Willem Marais, was killed in the accident.
“The helicopter was part of a team of two helicopters and a spotter plane on their way to fight a fire in the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
“I wish to express the Government’s and my personal condolences to the pilot’s wife, Mrs Jackie Marais, family, friends and his colleagues in the Working on Fire programme.
“We have all become starkly aware of the tremendous dedication and skills these pilots display in the fires that ravaged the Cape Peninsula over the past week. Were it not for their and their fire-fighter counterparts on the ground, Cape Town would have experienced far greater damage and losses of property, and risks to lives.
“Mr Marais was one of the pilots lauded for the exceptional work over the past week, when over 2,000 “drops” were made (each of about 1,100 litres) on the fire that started near Muizenberg, and spread to Noordhoek, Hout Bay, Tokai and Constantia.
“The cause of the accident is being investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority, and further details will be made known, once available.
“As a nation, we salute the bravery and service of these dedicated fire-fighters, and mourn the loss of Mr Marais in the course of duty.”
Working on Fire (WoF) spokesperson Evelyn Holtzhausen said he “was killed when his Huey was grounded in a forced landing while on fire suppression duty at Cape Point at about 11.30 am today. (March 08, 2015) The incident happened near Olifantsbos on the Western side of the reserve.”
This morning, on an optimistic note, VWS had erected a Thank You sign along the Cape Town Cycle Tour and posted photos thanking the people of Cape Town for their support during the fires that have ravaged the mountains in the past week. “Finally, after a long week, we have a chance to support you. #youareallheroes,” read the message.
Another young firefighter lost his life on Thursday. Nazeem Davies (25) was on his way back to the Vredenburg station from the Winterhoek Mountains where he had been helping to put out a fire, when the truck he was driving plunged down the side of the Dasklip Pass.
Cape Town Fire Services spokesman Richard Bosman has announced that the City of Cape Town has employed forensic scientist Dr David Klatsow to assist in investigating the cause of the fires.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Davies and Mr Marais, and to all their firefighting family.
Photos: Thank you Brian Oxley and Tammy Lieberman, www.fb.com/tammyliebermanphotography