Kabul: PE families speak out

Michael Kimberley

THE Port Elizabeth families of two pilots killed in the deadly suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan spoke out about their tragic loss yesterday (19/09/2012).

Eight of the 12 people killed in the bomb blast in war-torn Kabul were South Africans.

One of the pilots, Johan van Huyssteen, 31, lived in Port Elizabeth before his tragic death.

The mother and stepfather of the second pilot, Chris Pretorius, 30, live in Port Elizabeth.

Van Huyssteen’s wife, Sharon, said her husband was the type of man every woman wanted to marry.

“He was amazing and perfect, in every sense of the word. He was a gentle, fun-loving guy,” a grief-stricken Sharon said.

She described her husband as being security conscious and always being aware of his surroundings.

Van Huyssteen trained and taught at the Progress Flight School at the Port Elizabeth Airport.

“He really was respected and loved in the flying community. My husband was in Kabul to gain more experience and for a chance to fly bigger planes.”

She said it was difficult for pilots to find work in South Africa.

His tour included eight weeks in Afghanistan and five weeks at home.

Private aviation company ACS BalmOral Central Contracts said all the bodies were identified yesterday afternoon.

“We have been in contact with each of the families and relatives and will be keeping them up to date with the necessary arrangements to bring their remains back to South Africa,” the company said.

While Van Huyssteen’s wife was still trying to make sense of the tragedy, she said it was difficult to comprehend how an anti-Islamic movie was the cause of the attack.

The suicide bomber’s terror group was enraged by the US movie, Innocence of Muslims. It portrays Prophet Mohammed as a womaniser, child-beater and a homosexual.

“This has caused all our families to suffer. It really does make me angry,” Sharon said.

Pretorius’s stepfather, Antonie Jansen van Rensburg, said his stepson had been due to visit his mother, Annatjie, in Port Elizabeth next week.

Antonie said: “Chris was gentle, soft and loved by everyone. He was dedicated to his work and loved the job.

“He was like a son to me … He really is going to be missed.”

He described Pretorius as a fun-loving guy. “When he came to visit he always had these new toys like remote airplanes or cars.”

Antonie said a person in another vehicle, that was driving in convoy with the bombed minibus, contacted the family shortly after the attack.

The suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at a garage, where the minibus had stopped to refuel.

“There were three vehicles driving together when the bomb blew. One of those guys phoned us,” he said.

The blast completely destroyed the minibus.

Pretorius’s tour included six weeks in Afghanistan and five weeks at home.

Afghanistan intelligence services suggested the attacker had information about the victims and that it was a targeted killing.

The Afghan minibus driver, a ground crew member from Kyrgyzstan and a pedestrian also died in the blast.

A Johannesburg helicopter pilot, who quit a job in Kabul out of fear for his safety, said pilots earned about $850 (R7000) a day.

He also spoke about the dangers of working in Afghanistan.

The pilots, engineers and operations personnel were ferried to and from the airport and were “sitting ducks for attacks”, pilot Clint Buckman said.

He quit a similar job in Kabul after a week because he realised it was “too dangerous”.

A third pilot killed, Fraser Angus Carey, 32, was a former pupil of Kingswood College in Grahamstown.

The full list of the South African victims:

  • Chris Johannes Justus Pretorius, 30, of Pretoria:
  • Fraser Angus Carey, 31, of Johannesburg;
  • Brandon Quinn Booth, 47, of Balgowan, KwaZulu-Natal;
  • Johan Abraham van Huyssteen, 31, of Port Elizabeth;
  • Johan Frederick Bouchaud, 30, of Johannesburg;
  • Johannes Judenis Humphries, 65, of Centurion, Pretoria;
  • Steven Leong, 31, of Johannesburg; and
  • Jenny Margaret Ayris, 46, originally of Scotland.

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