Death-plunge plane headed ‘straight for our building’
Apartment tenant describes horror of crash as investigators arrive in PE to start probe
Aviation investigators have arrived in Port Elizabeth and started the probe into the plane crash that claimed the life of a veteran Port Elizabeth pilot on Monday.
Rego Burger, 56, was killed when his Fish Eagle aircraft crashed into the Baakens Valley at about 2.30pm.
The plane is believed to have burst into flames on impact in the valley, about 20m from The Knysna luxury apartment complex in Walmer.
Since the crash, police have been guarding the wreckage – which was mostly burnt and disintegrated in the fire.
The accident happened shortly after take-off from the Port Elizabeth International Airport and it is believed that Burger was heading back to the airport when the plane crashed.
The Knysna tenant Fred Engler, who witnessed the crash with his wife, described the last few moments before impact as “scary”.
“My wife and I were sitting in the lounge when we saw the aircraft heading straight for the building,” he said.
“We knew something was wrong. As it neared the building, I heard the engine and it sounded like it was going at full revs.
“It came straight towards the building, but was also moving downward.
“It then dived into bushes [in the valley] and hit the cliff.
“It went straight past our window in line with the fourth floor. Even when it was going past, you could still hear the engine.
“We were calling the fire department before it crashed. Within seconds of being on the phone, we heard the bang and it crashed.”
Engler said that within a minute of the initial crash, a second explosion was heard.
“I do not think it was an engine issue. I heard the engine as it came past the building. I think it is more likely something to do with the steering and controls,” he said.
“There was a woman on the second floor who was rattled as it could have hit the building.”
Engler said within seven minutes of his phone call, firefighters were on the scene.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said parts of the wreckage salvaged had been taken to the airport for safekeeping while police guards were stationed near the crash site to secure any other debris.
Much of the plane was destroyed in the crash.
“Due to the state of the body, there was no formal identification which could be held.
“Through the items found on the scene and flight records, we have confirmed the deceased’s identity,” she said.
“Because the aviation investigation arrived, we withdrew and handed the scene over to them.”
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba said a team of investigators had arrived in Port Elizabeth and started their investigation.
“The team flew out of Johannesburg last night and went to the scene this morning to start their investigation,” he said.
Ledwaba said that the findings on the cause of the crash would only be known at a later stage...