Burnt bodies of missing pilot, assistant found


The charred bodies of the missing Gonubie pilot John Patrick Waterson, 59, and his technical assistant Gerald Murahwi were recovered yesterday from a ravine.





They were found close to the eastern end of the Morgan Bay landing strip in the morning.

Murahwi was named by the Border Aviation Club in a statement

The gruesome discovery brought to conclusion a two-day search.

The two were last seen on Wednesday at 3pm flying a two-seater kit-assembled Savannah light plane apparently taking it for its first test flight.

They crashed at Brown’s landing strip near Morgan Bay

Waterson’s friend and fellow pilot of 30 years, Martin Vorwergi, said he suspected a structural failure may have caused the plane to go down.

He said Waterson had built the plane himself last year at his Gonubie factory.

Another pilot with 22 years flying experience, Ken Hillstead, 63, said: “He was an experienced pilot. I also suspect a mechanical failure.”

Hillstead, who went to Selborne College with Waterson, said he was a “very nice and friendly” person.

Scores of people took part in the search which covered neighbouring farms. Friends and villagers worked together to try and spot the missing aircraft.

Morgan Bay marketing executive Gareth Yearsley said: “I rushed here and assisted, hoping they would find both of them alive, but that was not the case.”

Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve sent 15 people to help search.

Team leader Brandon Young said they were there to help fellow human beings.

The bodies were recovered by SAPS Airwing officers Sergeant Quinton Swartbooi, pilot Sam  Trolippe, and SAPS Search-and-Rescue Unit Constable Phelisa Dyantyi and Warrant Officer Fred Dicks.

Cambridge police spokesman Captain Mluleki Mbi said the burnt bodies had been found in the wreckage.

Locals had noticed smoke coming from the bush.

“Both bodies, burnt beyond recognition, were found in the burnt, wrecked aircraft.

“An inquest docket has been registered with the Kei Mouth SAPS,” said Mbi.

Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) spokeswoman Santjie White said a joint operations centre (JOC) had been established at Wings Park airfield and a ground search operation conducted until just after midnight on Wednesday.

On Thursday, an extensive air-and-ground search was conducted using local volunteer pilots, the SAPS Airwing, and Aeromed.

Five search sectors were allocated to the aircraft covering about 827km².

The ARCC followed up on all reports.

The NSRI started searching the coastline between East London and Wavecrest.

The briefing yesterday morning concentrated on searching on the ground.

The searcher who found the crashed plane and asked not to be named, said:

“After talking about where to look, we split up. I ended walking with my wife and one other woman down the runway.

“When we got to the end, I carried on walking down into a ravine through the bush and that’s where I found the plane.

“It was quick – it took only about one-and-a-half hours – to find the plane at 10am.”

He said the plane was in a terrible condition having obviously caught on fire and burnt out.

“I had to climb back out the valley to get a signal.

“I sent a message to the WhatsApp group which had been set up for the search and someone on the group was then able to call the police.

“I stuck around for a while and saw two police helicopters, as well as a medical chopper, arrive,” the searcher said.

Waterson is survived by his wife, Anne, and his four children James, 21, Angela, 18, Angus, 16, and Tessie 10.

— Additional reporting by Tyler Riddin and Barbara Hollands




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