Chopper pilot a legend
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.