Acting Minister, Mr Derek Hanekom mourns the passing of pilot during Western Cape firefighting operations

25 October 2018


Acting Minister of Environmental Affairs, Derek Hanekom, has expressed his sadness at the loss of Working on Fire (WoF) pilot, Mr Nico Heyns, during firefighting operations in the Riversdale area of the Western Cape, on 23 October 2018.

“It is with great regret to announce the passing of our beloved pilot, Mr Nico Heyns, on Tuesday, 23 October 2018. Nico was busy with efforts to contain a fire in Vermaaklikheid area near Riversdale in the Western Cape”.

“The Vermaaklikheid Fire started after 3pm on 21 October 2018 (Sunday Afternoon) and Working on Fire deployed 45 firefighters to assist in this fire. Working on Fire also dispatched a Huey helicopter to Vermaaklikheid and it is confirmed that the helicopter went down near the fire at approximately 09:45 on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, while conducting firefighting operations”.

“The Emergency response team was activated, and the family has been informed. The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has been notified. The cause of the accident is not yet known.”

Minister Hanekom has also expressed gratitude to WoF for providing counselling to firefighters immediately after the incident and informing Mr Heyn’s family about his passing

“Mr Heyns was one of the firefighting pilots who received recognition for his work during the Knysna fires of June 2017 and the Cape St. Francis (Eastern Cape) fires of January 2016. He was a hardworking and dedicated pilot who was committed to saving lives and protecting the environment. On behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs we wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the Heyns family, for the loss of their loved one”.

The WoF programme has close to 100 firefighters and management at the Vermaaklikheid fire where they are providing firefighting support to the local and district fire authorities. Working on Fire has also dispatched an additional Helicopter and to Fixed Wing Waterbombers to the Western Cape to assist in these firefighting efforts”.

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