Tears and heartache as families of helicopter crash medics visit accident site
Families of the four health-care workers and a pilot who were killed when a helicopter they were travelling in crashed in KwaZulu-Natal last week visited the accident site on Wednesday morning.
Netcare, for whom most of the victims worked, described it as a painful day punctuated with deep shock and disbelief. It said a “moving ceremony” was held for the “five extraordinary individuals who lost their lives in a tragic helicopter accident near Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal last week”.
The hospital group said it was a long, emotional day for the families, loved ones and colleagues of Dr Kgopotso Rudolf Mononyane, Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Siya) Mahlangu and Mpho Xaba, all from Netcare Milpark Hospital, and Sinjin Joshua Farrance of Netcare 911 and Mark Stoxreiter, the pilot from National Airways Corporation (NAC).
The mourners travelled in convoy from Johannesburg to the crash site in the uThukela district early in the morning.
“A cloud-covered day dawned over the city and the Hillbrow Tower was appropriately shrouded in mist as the vehicles made their sombre journey to a remembrance service for the five fallen heroes. Along the route, colleagues from emergency medical services, the police and members of the public silently stood vigil as the convoy passed,” Netcare said.
In a field, on a farm near Winterton, five white crosses mark the place where Mononyane, Mahlangu, Xaba, Farrance and Stoxreiter died in the line of duty.
In paying tribute to his colleagues, Netcare group CEO Dr Richard Friedland said: “We are here today to bear testimony to the lives of these great human beings, to continue their unfinished legacy of healing and bringing hope.
“At this hallowed site, their heroic and remarkable lives were cut short and a gaping hole remains. We will never be able to adequately articulate the magnitude of this loss, nor make sense of it, and yet we are left with that impossible task as we reach out our arms to you, their loved ones, in hope and comfort.
There is no greater act of humanity than to lose one’s life in attempting to rescue the life of another.Dr Richard Friedland
“These five selfless and extraordinary individuals were on a mercy mission doing God’s holy and sacred work, saving lives. This was their calling, their purpose. There is no greater act of humanity than to lose one’s life in attempting to rescue the life of another.
“We know God uses good people to do great things, and we need not look any further than these young, talented, extraordinary individuals who embody what it means to be a hero. Every day for them was an act of courage and they were the personification of strength, compassion and grace.
“Our hearts are broken, we mourn the loss of these fallen heroes, these front-line workers who have given so selflessly, so courageously of themselves. Our hearts are shattered for you, their families, children, loved ones, friends and colleagues whom they have left behind.
“Our thoughts too are with our beloved colleagues at Netcare 911, Netcare Milpark Hospital and NAC. The national outpouring of grief is testimony to the enormous contribution that Mpho, Rudolf, Siyabonga, Sinjin and Mark have made, each in their own unique way.”
Five indigenous trees were planted at the site of the accident as a living memorial “to represent the five diverse and loved individuals”.
“They will continue to grow and bloom every season to commemorate their memories and their lives. Trees provide life in many forms, from being a source of food, shelter, oxygen and medicine, as well as being held in many cultures as spiritually important and often revered,” said Friedland.
“The ancient symbol of the tree has been found to represent physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation, liberation and union. Trees represent resilience, as a tree bends in the storm just as we weather the daily struggles of life.
David Stanton, head of clinical and education of Netcare 911, said: “These significant trees will grow here, thriving and providing their shade and nourishment to all those who visit. These trees planted here are real living things, serving as a growing memorial to the lives of our five brave heroes.”
Friedland said Netcare would find a way to ensure that the lives of those who died would continue to bring light to the world.
“We will continue to carry you all in our hearts, and we stand here before you steadfast in our commitment to walk in their footsteps, to honour their legacies for you and your children. May they be carried on the wings of angels to their rightful place in heaven. May their beloved souls rest in peace. Hambani kahle maqhawe,” Friedland said.