Rugby player hit by low-flying plane
● What was supposed to be a quick cellphone video recording of a low-flying crop duster spraying a farm in Fochville, Gauteng, has likely ended Tiaan Daffie’s dreams of a career in rugby after the plane hit him, ripping off part of his knee.
Now he and his legal team are squaring up for a lawsuit.
Daffie’s attorney, Michael Ellis, this week confirmed that civil action will be pursued in a vicarious liability lawsuit.
“Tiaan was operated on and discharged from hospital, but two days later returned to hospital because he was not feeling well. They managed to control the infection and for now he is healing well, but he is still on crutches and in a lot of pain.
“He can move his foot, but he will be returning for an MRI scan to determine how well he has healed and establish the extent of any permanent damage,” Ellis said.
Daffie declined to be interviewed, referring the Sunday Times to Ellis, who said he had employed an independent investigator to look into the incident. The report will form the basis of the civil action.
The 21-year-old, described by Ellis as a keen sportsman who possibly may never play again, was visiting the farm on January 8. He went into the fields close to where crops were being sprayed from the air because the ground was too wet.
According to a preliminary Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report, Daffie was standing 100m north of the maize field filming an approaching crop duster swooping down low.
As the plane came closer he dropped onto his haunches then bent backwards as he continued to film.
As the small Air Tractor banked into a turn for the next run over the field, the left wing tip struck Daffie’s left knee and left shoulder. It was travelling at an estimated 250km/h, according to the CAA investigation division’s preliminary report on the Elandsfontein farm incident.
The CAA said the investigation will take about a year, during which time it will not comment on the case.
Ellis said a pilot hired to do crop dusting had a duty of care and flight lines and the direction of turning circles were dictated by aviation rules, as was pilot behaviour in the case of spectators. This would all form part of the independent report that has been commissioned to determine their civil case.
Veteran pilot Hennie Viviers, who was flying the plane, has been instructed by the CAA not to speak to the media pending the final report. According to the preliminary report, he has 13,314.7 hours’ flying experience and had flown 210.9 hours on an Air Tractor in the 90 days before the incident.
An Air Tractor AT-502A is an agricultural aircraft that carries a hopper tank with a capacity of 1,893l.
The report states that the pilot said he had not seen anyone standing in his spray line. When he banked to turn he had felt “a soft thump” on the wing and thought he had hit a bird.
The report said the farmer, who declined to speak to the Sunday Times, loaded Daffie into his vehicle and rushed him 50km to the Mediclinic in Potchefstroom.
Daffie underwent surgery on his leg later that day and the 21-second video he filmed began circulating on social media.