C­hop­per pi­lot a le­gend

Suid-Kaap FORUM - - News - Ya­seen Gaf­far

T­ri­bu­tes ha­ve been pou­ring in on so­ci­al me­dia for Ni­co Heyns the le­gen­da­ry c­hop­per pi­lot who died on Tu­es­day mor­ning (23 Oc­to­ber) whi­le batt­ling a fi­re in the Ver­maak­lik­heid a­rea ne­ar the Dui­wen­hoks Ri­ver a­bout 35km from Ri­vers­da­le. Heyns, who li­ved in Knys­na, was a pil­lar of strength within the fi­re-fig­hting com­mu­ni­ty and was wi­de­ly prai­sed o­ver the y­e­ars for his coura­ge and de­ter­mi­na­ti­on in batt­ling fla­mes all o­ver the Gar­den Rou­te. He was al­so one of the most ex­pe­rien­ced fi­re bom­bing pi­lots in the coun­try, and was acti­ve­ly and ti­re­les­sly in­vol­ved in batt­ling the Knys­na Fi­res of Ju­ne 2017. In 2016, he was des­cri­bed as a pi­lot who works li­ke a ma­chi­ne, w­hen he wor­ked non-stop for two days to stop fi­res that had thre­a­tened parts of the ho­li­day towns of St Fran­cis Bay and Ca­pe St Fran­cis in the Eas­tern Ca­pe. Heyns was hai­led a hero w­hen he foug­ht a fi­re run­ning wild through the V­leie reeds that had thre­a­tened ho­mes in Wil­der­ness. He­re re­si­dents ex­pres­sed re­lief w­hen they saw Heyns in his Hu­ey he­li­cop­ter and bam­bi buc­ket. In an in­ter­view with Ge­or­ge He­rald last y­e­ar, Heyns sta­ted that a­e­ri­al fi­re­fig­hting was his pas­si­on. He u­sed to own his own he­li­cop­ter ser­vi­ce, Heyns He­li­cop­ter Ser­vi­ce, for ma­ny y­e­ars be­fo­re sel­ling and joi­ning Kis­hu­gu A­vi­a­ti­on. Kis­hu­gu is con­trac­ted to lend a­e­ri­al sup­port to Wor­king on Fi­re - a go­vern­ment i­ni­ti­a­ti­ve w­he­re ground fi­re­fig­hting per­son­nel are em­ploy­ed. Heyns was al­ways hum­ble a­bout his a­chie­vements, and of­ten at­tri­bu­ted his skill to the sup­port from ground te­ams. Mi­nis­ter of Lo­cal Go­vern­ment, En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs and De­ve­lop­ment Plan­ning, An­ton B­re­dell, ex­pres­sed his con­do­len­ces on be­half of the pro­vin­ci­al go­vern­ment in a sta­te­ment on Tu­es­day. “The fa­mi­ly, friends and the com­mu­ni­ty of fi­re­fig­h­ters are in our thoug­hts at this ti­me,” he said. Heyns was di­vor­ced and is sur­vi­ved by his ex-wi­fe, daug­h­ter and son.

Ni­co Heyns The man­gled wreck of the Hu­ey-he­li­cop­ter in which Heyns died.

Newspapers in Afrikaans

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.