Working on Fire Pilot Tragically Killed in Cape Point Fire Today

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.

#CapeFire helicopter
A photo taken during the week by Tammy Lieberman showing the “incredible work being undertaken by tireless helicopter pilots.”

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.

Smoke from the Cape Point fire on Thursday after winds picked up.  Photo : Brian Oxley
Smoke from the Cape Point fire on Thursday after winds picked up. Photo : Brian Oxley
Photo by Brian Oxley, taken yesterday - "Serious amount of attention being focused on new fire. These chopper pilots are amazing, and the fire services!"
Photo by Brian Oxley, taken yesterday – “Serious amount of attention being focused on new fire. These chopper pilots are amazing, and the fire services!”

“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.

#CapeFire helicopter
Photo taken a few days ago by Tammy Lieberman showing a helicopter hoisting water out of the dam alongside Klein Constantia.
#CapeFire helicopter
Photo by Tammy Lieberman during this week’s fires, revealing the “heavy work – water being carried by relatively tiny helicopters to douse the fire running across an entire forest.”

“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.”

Counselling for Mamre and Cata fire fighters who were working at Cape Point fire.
Counselling this afternoon for Mamre and Cata fire fighters who were fighting Cape Point fire. Source: FB/Wof

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.

VWS: Thank you Cape Town
VWS erected this sign in Cape Town and uploaded a photo with this message this morning: “Finally after a long week we have a chance to support you ‪#‎youareallheroes‬” Source: VWS
VWS: Thank you Cape Town
VWS supporting cyclists (with sign in view) during this morning’s ‘Argus’ Cape Town Cycle Tour. Source: VWS

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