Stop speculating over air-crash, says transport minister

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Windhoek

The South African transport minister, Elizabeth Dipuo Peters, has asked the public to refrain from speculating on the cause of the plane crash that claimed five lives on Sunday when a Namibian registered air ambulance crashed in the Tygerberg nature reserve.

A preliminary report on the air disaster that occurred near Cape Town will be made public as soon as the official investigation is completed.

“The minister has called on members of the public, regardless of their status in society, who have no expertise in aviation to desist from venturing into unsubstantiated claims and speculation on the possible cause of the crash,” her department said in a statement.

“People ought to act responsibly and acknowledge the loss of lives in this crash. Distraught and bereaved families of those who regrettably perished want accurate reports on the crash and not sheer speculation, aimed at causing panic and alarm. We urge the investigating teams to do everything in their power to get to the bottom of the cause of this accident and report back speedily on their findings” stated Peters.

She offered her condolences to the families of the deceased. “We are deeply saddened by this unfortunate occurrence. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go to the families of those who lost their lives. The department’s accident and incident investigation team has already been to the scene and we are also in contact with the Namibian authorities on the matter,” stated the South African minister.

Reports that there was a nationwide radar systems failure at the time the plane crashed in Tygerberg nature reserve are disconcerting, Air Traffic and Navigations Services (ATNS) said on Monday.

“We would like to state that these allusions – in the absence of an independent investigation report – are misleading, speculative and lack substance,” said ATNS spokesperson Percy Morokane. He said all airports, including Cape Town International, were operating normally.

The ambulance aircraft was carrying a Namibian crew, a South African patient and his daughter. The Namibians on board included pilot Steven Naude, 53, co-pilot Amore Espag, 23, and paramedic Alfred John Ward 24.

The South African patient was named as 80-year-old Gabriel le Roux, who died alongside his daughter, Charmaine Koortzen, 49, a South African national who lived in Oranjemund.

Aviation expert Eon de Vos of Crew Resource Management posted on Facebook possible reasons for Sunday’s crash, based on the images released by Emergency Medical Services.

“Appears at this stage (unconfirmed) to be a procedural approach that went wrong. First responders reported very low visibility around the Tygerberg area,” De Vos wrote in a post.

However, Arthur Bradshaw, former general manager of the Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company (ATNS), said it was unwise to speculate too much about the exact nature of the crash until all the facts were available.

News24 reported on Sunday that a “technical glitch” with flight systems at Cape Town International Airport caused flight delays for most of Sunday morning. The glitch is understood to relate to flight slot co-ordination, which allocates an order for incoming and departing air traffic.

Morokane said the technical failure “could have been experienced anywhere in the world, and the air crash involving an aero-medical fixed-wing aircraft could not be linked to the system failure.”

Cape Town’s fire and rescue services spokesman, Theo Layne, said rescue personnel struggled to see the crash scene clearly because of heavy mist when they arrived at the scene near the Tygerberg Nature Reserve.

“A nightmare vision was apparently revealed when they got closer,” Layne said. “The passengers’ bodies were mangled in the wreckage. They are identifiable, but the bodies are severely damaged.”

By midday on Monday, forensic and medical personnel were still examining the scene of the crash and the bodies had not been moved.

Morokane declined to comment on why radio contact with the plane had been lost. He said only that a full investigation would be conducted by the Department of Transport’s Aircraft Accident Investigations Unit to determine the cause of the crash.

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