Bla­ze con­ti­nues as fire le­gend dies

George Herald - - Voorblad - Il­se S­choon­raad

Bom­ber pla­nes, chop­pers and ground crews y­e­ster­day af­ter­noon con­ti­nu­ed to batt­le the de­va­sta­ting fire in Ver­maak­lik­heid that had de­stroy­ed eig­ht ho­mes and led to the de­ath of le­gen­da­ry chop­per pi­lot, Ni­co Heyns. Ac­cor­ding to the in­ci­dent com­mand te­am, 60% of the fire had been con­tai­ned by noon, whi­le the fire was still acti­ve on two flanks with se­ver­al hot li­nes in the se­clu­ded ho­li­day vil­la­ge on the Dui­wen­hoks ri­ver, 35km out­si­de Ri­vers­da­le.

Fi­re­fig­h­ters wor­ked through the nig­ht to pro­tect pro­per­ty and y­e­ster­day se­ri­ous fla­reups we­re con­ti­nu­ous­ly batt­led in ex­tre­me he­at. Y­e­ster­day mor­ning a South A­fri­can Air For­ce Oryx he­li­cop­ter, one spot­ter pla­ne, two bom­ber pla­nes, 97 Wor­king on Fire (WoF) ground crew mem­bers, 30 pro­fes­si­o­nal fi­re­fig­h­ters, four Sout­hern Ca­pe Fire Protection Association se­ni­or mem­bers and 10 Gou­kou Farm wa­tch mem­bers we­re batt­ling the bla­ze that star­ted on Sun­day pos­si­bly from a s­park from an e­lec­tric po­le.

De­ath of a le­gend

Heyns died w­hen his WoF Hu­ey chop­per cras­hed to the ground at 09:45 on Tu­es­day mor­ning. Ac­cor­ding to an ey­e­wit­ness, Jan Ja­cobs, Heyns had just tur­ned to re­fill the Bam­bi buc­ket af­ter wa­ter-bom­bing a fire at Os­hoek, w­hen it look­ed as though the front ro­tor ca­me loo­se. The chop­per fell and Heyns died on the sce­ne.

His good friend, chop­per pi­lot Ko­bus Crous of Mos­sel Bay He­li­cop­ters, was fig­hting the sa­me fire from the sky and al­so be­lie­ves the crash was due to a techni­cal pro­blem. He said Heyns was a very ca­re­ful pi­lot who ne­ver took chan­ces. Heyns was fa­mous for his heroic ef­forts du­ring the Knys­na fi­res in 2017 and had been fig­hting fi­res from the sky for the past two de­ca­des.

Kis­hu­gu A­vi­a­ti­on, who is con­trac­ted to do a­e­ri­al fi­re­fig­hting for WoF, said the cau­se of the ac­ci­dent is unkno­wn and that the SA Ci­vil A­vi­a­ti­on Aut­ho­ri­ty is in­ves­ti­ga­ting the ac­ci­dent.

Heyns is sur­vi­ved by his for­mer wi­fe, a son and a daug­h­ter.

By y­e­ster­day noon, thou­sands of hec­ta­res of sus­tai­na­ble har­vest fyn­bos and wild­li­fe gra­zing had been lost and sig­ni­fi­cant da­ma­ge to fen­ces and ot­her in­fra­struc­tu­re was re­cor­ded.

The com­mand te­am than­ked the po­li­ti­cal and o­pe­ra­ti­o­nal arms of the Gar­den

Rou­te and O­ver­berg dis­trict mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ties, Hes­se­qua, Ge­or­ge and Mos­sel Bay lo­cal aut­ho­ri­ties and the pro­vin­ci­al and na­ti­o­nal di­sas­ter ma­na­ge­ment cen­tres.

"A s­pe­ci­al no­te of thanks to the En­vi­ro Wild­fi­re Ser­vi­ces un­der the le­a­ders­hip of Rob Eras­mus. Their selfless ser­vi­ce and de­di­ca­ti­on sa­ved se­ver­al struc­tu­res in the past two days."

A full up­da­te on the fire was ex­pected y­e­ster­day e­ve­ning at 19:00.

Vi­sit www.ge­or­ge­he­rald.com for the la­test news.

Pie­ces of the wrec­ked he­li­cop­ter in which Ni­co Heyns lost his li­fe doing w­hat he did best - fig­hting fi­res.

P­ho­to: Pau­li­ne Lou­rens

The le­gen­da­ry a­e­ri­al fi­re­fig­h­ter Ni­co Heyns, died w­hen his WoF chop­per went do­wn.

The fire has left the a­rea char­red. P­ho­to: Mos­sel Bay He­li­cop­ters

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