National 30.8.2016 05:11 pm

Mpumalanga town mourns plane crash victims

The light aircraft was burned beyond recognition. Picture: Lowvelder.

The light aircraft was burned beyond recognition. Picture: Lowvelder.

The Onderberg community mourns the loss of three people who were killed in a plane crash at the weekend.

The plane crash that claimed the lives of three Lowvelders in Mpumalanga on Saturday afternoon has left the families and friends of the deceased in shock, reports the Lowvelder.

Herklaas Smit, 39, Candice Delport. 27, and Ernst Labuschagne (age unknown) died when the light aircraft they were travelling in crashed shortly after take-off.

READ THE INITIAL STORY HERE: Three dead in aircraft accident at Komati Gorge Lodge

The South African Civil Aviation Authority’s (SACAA) investigation team is in the process of probing the cause of the fatal accident that happened between Machadodorp and Carolina at approximately 12pm. The aircraft allegedly suffered a post-impact fire.

According to Brig Leonard Hlathi of the Saps, two of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition and the third partly burnt.

SACAA’s Mpume Motaung said the details of the crash were a “bit sketchy” at this point. “Thus, the type of aircraft, its point of departure and intended point of landing are yet to be determined,” she said.

Motaung added SACAA investigations varied in complexity and could take up to 12 months to complete. Although the type of aircraft had not yet been confirmed, it is believed to be a Cessna 182 model.

Herklaas was the pilot of the plane and owner of his own business. He is survived by his wife, Anel, and three daughters.

Herklaas Smit. Picture: Lowvelder.

Herklaas Smit. Picture: Lowvelder.

His mother, Retha Smit, said her son was a friendly and lovable man and that the whole family had gathered after hearing the news of his passing, including his two siblings and parents-in-law.

“We loved him, and he loved us. He was a family man and fond of the outdoors. The accident only happened [on Saturday] so it is very fresh for all of us,” she said.

Retha and her husband Hentie Smit are retired and live in Marloth Park. She added that Herklaas had been flying for about five years. She said they believed the excursion was a leisure flight to see the area.

Friends of Herklaas paid their respects to him and his family on his Facebook wall.

According to Glynnis Coetsee, Candice’s mother, her daughter was separated from her husband, Manna Delport, with whom she has a three-year-old daughter. She said Candice was in a relationship with Herklaas.

“I knew my child. I knew who she was,” she said of negative reporting the couple received in other publications.

Candice and Leonè Delport. Picture: Lowvelder.

Candice and Leonè Delport. Picture: Lowvelder.

Candice was fondly remembered by friends and family members who said she would be greatly missed by her former hip hop dance students and pupils from Toddle Tots Kleuterskool and Riverview Preparatory School in Malalane, where she recently started working.

“We have all lost an amazing person. I got to know you better in the past few months, and all I can say is that you epitomised beauty, strength and love,” Jeannine da Silva wrote on Facebook. Manna declared his love for Candice in an open letter on his Facebook page.

“Words cannot describe the feelings. You are and always will be the love of my life. You’re a mother to the most beautiful daughter, and you’ve given me the greatest joy in life. She will forever remember her mother, and I’ll tell her daily how fantastic you were.

“I’ll raise our child to the best of my ability, but I’ll never be able to fill your shoes. It is so unfair how life goes and ends. I will forever be proud to call you my wife,” he wrote.

A memorial service will be held for Candice at the Gateway Community Church, Komatipoort, on September 2 at 3pm.

Lowvelder was unable to contact Labuschagne’s family, who was the general manager of Komati Gorge Lodge, close to where the accident happened.

Amanda and Ernst Labuschagne. Picture: Lowvelder.

Amanda and Ernst Labuschagne. Picture: Lowvelder.

Henrico Duvenage, a friend of his who Lowvelder met at the scene of the accident, said he just could not believe what had happened.

“I heard from Ernst’s wife, Amanda about the accident but I had to come and see the crash for myself. I just could not believe that this had happened,” he said.

Duvenage explained that his children were at the same school as the two Labuschagne children and that Ernst’s 10-year-old son trained at his kick-boxing gym.

“Ernst loved his children very much. That I am sure of. He was also a real go-getter; he was creative and energetic, and that’s why he was great to have around.

“He was such a proactive guy and always busy with a new project.”

Caxton News Service

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