Fatal plane crash probed

Gareth Wilson wilsong@avusa.co.za

SOUTH African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) officials are investigating the possibility that veteran Cape Town pilot Allan Combrink suffered a heart attack or stroke before he crashed. They are also looking into possible mechanical failure.

Combrink, 57, died instantly on Monday when his twin-engine Beechcraft Baron ploughed into the ground on a hill at a farm near Draaifontein Road in Greenbushes, just 16 minutes after taking off from the Port Elizabeth Airport.

As investigators returned to the site yesterday, family members – who described Combrink as “incredibly meticulous and a brilliant pilot” – arrived at the site.

His brother, Gary Combrink, from Hermanus, and sister, Linda Combrink Sutej, from Knysna, said he was a retired businessman who held a commercial pilot’s licence and “absolutely loved to fly”.

Police at first battled to contact Combrink’s wife and two children, who were in Mozambique on holiday. They arrived back in Cape Town yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon they posted an obituary online, saying: “To our beloved husband and father, taken so tragically from us on Tuesday. You had a passion for life like no one else and lived it to the full. You leave a gap in our lives forever and we will miss you terribly. Hope the Ferrari was waiting with Meatloaf blasting. All our love, Fiona, Tammy and Mandy.”

Yesterday, senior officials working on the investigation confirmed that they were looking into the possibility of Combrink having had a heart attack or stroke while flying. “One witness said that the plane was turning but at a very steep angle before crashing at full speed into the ground,” the officer said.

“We have established that it hit a few nearby trees before crashing. Both engines were found a few metres away from the main wreckage and were buried in the ground due to the impact.”

Aviation engineers were called to assist with the investigation and said the wreckage suggested the aircraft hit the ground at about 600km/h.

Combrink was on his way home after the aircraft had been serviced in Port Elizabeth.

Today experts will use a 3D camera to assist with the reconstruction of the plane crash.

Crime scene commander Colonel Tony Nomdoe said a 1km perimeter area had been cordoned off to ensure no debris was interfered with.

In the past three months there have been 27 aircraft accidents in the country. Nine of them resulted in 11 fatalities.

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