A Gauteng-based Beit Bridge businessman, Mr Christian Malila Ndou, was killed on Sunday morning, when his Robinson R44 helicopter crashed and burst into flames in a mountainous area outside Gwanda town in Zimbabwe.
The incident occurred between 07:00 and 07:30 in a bushy area. When the victim’s relatives arrived at the scene of the horrific crash, they managed to identify the deceased and wept uncontrollably. A man, believed to be his son, went berserk and ran away from the crash site before police apprehended and consoled him.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the incident, saying they were still investigating the cause of the crash. She said they suspected Ndou could have been thrown out of the helicopter when it developed a fault and overturned mid-air before it crashed and caught fire.
“The helicopter’s propellers cut his body into pieces and his dismembered body was found almost 30 metres away from the scene. Some remains were found up to 50 metres away from the crash site. Poor visibility may also have caused the tragedy,” she said.
Ndou, who ran a successful security company in Gauteng, farms in the Limpopo province and Beit Bridge and was flying alone at the time the accident occurred. When Limpopo Mirror arrived at the scene, police were seen gathering his remains from the bushy area on a hilltop.
Local residents who witnessed the helicopter flying above Gwanda town moments before it crashed said the pilot had circled above the town as if he was looking for a space to land.
Ndou was flying his four-seater aircraft alone from Bulawayo to Beit Bridge.
“The helicopter circled for some moments and I thought it was going to land somewhere in town before it headed southwards. It could have developed a mechanical fault,” said an onlooker. “The helicopter was flying very low and it made some terrible sound,” he added.
Mr Henry Raymond Hollins, a local resident who also owns a helicopter, said it was strange that the helicopter had crashed.
“A Robson R44 rarely crashes and I really wonder what could have happened,” Hollins said.
Local civil aviation officials are still conducting investigations into the tragedy. – LiN News/Limpopo Mirror
The burning helicopter, photographed shortly after the crash.