A pilot died in a helicopter crash while fighting fire in Cape Point on Sunday, Cape Town mayor Patrica de Lille said.
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the legendary pilot, Willem “Bees” Marais who died in a helicopter crash whilst providing aerial combatting against the fire at Olifantsbos in the Cape Point Nature Reserve this afternoon,” De Lille said in a statement.
At least 500 people had been evacuated since the fire began in Muizenberg.
The fire started last Sunday and was contained, but flared up again just after on Monday in Muizenberg above Boyes Drive. It was fanned by strong winds.
It spread to Ou Kaapse Weg, Chapman’s Peak, Hout Bay, and Tokai.
One city fire-fighter sustained burn wounds and 52 frail-care residents from a Noordhoek retirement village were treated for smoke inhalation.
More than 2000 people were helping to quell the fire during the week, the environmental affairs department said at the time.
De Lille said counselling was being provided to Marais’ colleagues following the crash.
She extended condolences to Marais’ family, friends and colleagues.
“The public safety and aviation fraternity has lost a great pilot.”
“We salute him and pay tribute to him for the contribution that he made in saving lives and protecting property.”
De Lille said Marais was a skilled pilot who also worked at the South African Air Force, South African Police Services and the South African Red Cross Air Mercy Service.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority would investigate the crash, she said. SAPA