Minister Edna Molewa expresses condolences at passing of senior departmental researcher

12 October 2017


The Ministry of Environmental Affairs has expressed condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of ocean scientist, Dr Christopher Michael Duncombe-Rae, who passed away on a flight to the United States early on Wednesday morning.

South African Airways (SAA) confirmed that the death of the scientist was discovered when the SAA flight to Washington DC landed in Dakar, Senegal, for refuelling, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  

Dr Duncombe-Rae was a Specialist Scientists in physical oceanography and data management in the Oceans and Coast branch of the Department of Environmental Affairs, in Cape Town.  He was a key member of the Departmental team that compiled the 2014 State of the Oceans Around South Africa report.

Dr Duncombe-Rae was en route to Washington to spend a few weeks with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) colleagues, to interact with them on how to improve the Department of Environmental Affairs’ data and information systems in support of research and the Government’s Oceans Economy Strategy, Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy. He was instrumental in initiating the process and building the system from the ground up.

“It is with sadness that we learnt about the passing of Dr Duncombe-Rae on an SAA flight to Washington early yesterday morning. I would like to express the condolences of the Department and his colleagues to his family and friends,” said the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa.

“Dr Duncombe-Rae was a proud South African and well-respected scientist in his field nationally and internationally.  He took personal pride in developing the Oceans Economy System for the country and capacitating young scientists and colleagues,” added Deputy Minister, Mrs Barbara Thomson.

Dr Duncombe-Rae is survived by his wife, Deidre Byrne, also an ocean scientist in the Department and an 11 year-old son. 

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