Plane wreck found in Addo

Zandile Mbabela

THE wife of a Benoni businessman and pilot whose plane crashed on the way to a Mossel Bay air show last week was not allowed near the wreckage when her husband's remains were recovered from the Addo Elephant National Park at the weekend.

The three-day search for Clifford Pike, 50, ended on Saturday when his single-seater aircraft was found at 3.45pm during a fly-over at the game reserve.

His body was recovered by the air force in Harvey's Loop valley on the Colchester side of the elephant park.

Pike's family and friends were in another part of the park when the wreckage was found.

Officials would not allow his wife near the site to shield her from the horrific scene, police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender said.

Pike was flying with two other pilots, each in a single-seater plane, when they encountered thick mist and split up. Pike was never heard from again.

His traumatised family refused to comment yesterday.

A colleague at the Aviation Training Academy, where Pike was chief executive, described him as a sincere person with a passion for flying.

"He was a really good friend and colleague. His death has been a real loss to all who knew him and we will miss him dearly," Mark Dethian said.

Dethian was in Beijing when he heard from Pike's wife that he was missing.

Govender said the site where the wreckage was found was not accessible by road.

"The entire search was done with air support, and rescue workers and police from Grahamstown, Kirkwood, Alexandria, Port Alfred, Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Motherwell," she said.

"Everyone, including the community at large, helped look for him.

"[Pike's] family and friends helped with quad bikes to gain access to the bushes during the search," she said.

Pike, who left 43 Air School in Port Alfred with the two other pilots at noon on Wednesday, is believed to have crashed his Giles 202 aerobatic aircraft after they encountered thick mist and cloud around Alexandria.

They were en route to the Dias Festival Air Show, which ended yesterday, in Mossel Bay.

Pike's plane was last seen between Kenton-on-Sea and Colchester, when the three split up.

The wreckage was spotted from an SA Air Force helicopter.

Pike only started flying after a stint in professional soccer and establishing himself in business.

He obtained his private pilot's licence in 1984 and had accumulated more than 2500 hours of flying. He owned a fleet of planes.