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Businessman, sister killed in Vaal Dam chopper crash

The NSRI rescue crew. (PHOTO: Jamey Gordon)

The NSRI rescue crew. (PHOTO: Jamey Gordon)

  • Two people died after a helicopter crashed into the Vaal Dam.
  • A man rowed to the crash site and managed to rescue the woman, but she had not survived.  
  • Rescuers retrieved the pilot’s body from the wreckage later in the evening.   

A businessman and his sister died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed into the Vaal Dam on Friday night.  

“There was no warning,” said the Vaal Marina Community Policing Forum’s Kevin Prinsloo on Saturday.

Prinsloo said a student fishing near the crash site got into his canoe and paddled frantically towards the burning helicopter. He managed to get the woman out, but she had not survived the crash.  

When the pilot was found in the wreckage, he was dead.   

Two Beagle dogs were also found dead.

Netwerk24 reported the pilot was well-known businessman, Essie Esterhuysen, who had been treating his sister, Dané, to a weekend away. 

He fetched her by helicopter from Wilderness in the Southern Cape on Friday.

As he was preparing to land, the helicopter apparently dropped into the water. 

ALSO READ | Man, 66, drowns at Hermanus Lagoon

Esterhuysen was the founder and director of the Esgro group, which specialised in starting garage food franchises, like Wimpy and Steers. 

Fellow CPF member Wynand van der Walt was among the emergency support team that rushed to the scene.  

“I tried CPR, but it was too late already,” he said of efforts to help the woman.  

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre sounded the alarm and a massive rescue team, including police divers, Netcare911 and ER24 ambulance services, was activated. 

Jacobus ‘Essie’ Esterhuysen, who is described as a

Jacobus ‘Essie’ Esterhuysen, who is described as an experienced and safety-conscious pilot. Photo: Supplied

The NSRI also launched a rescue craft; the helicopter was found near the Vaal Marina, about 200 metres offshore.  

“It is believed the helicopter was en route from Rand Airport to the Vaal Dam, with a Johannesburg pilot, his sister and two dogs,” the NSRI said. 

On Saturday, the NSRI Vaal Dam, police divers and officers, a police helicopter and the Midvaal Fire and Rescue Services worked at the wreckage, under the guidance of the Civil Aviation Authority.  

Prinsloo said the wreckage was lifted from the water on Saturday, and the investigation was underway.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba confirmed that the Accident and Incident Investigations Division was notified of the crash at Sunset Cove.

“There were two occupants on board. Both occupants were fatally injured.

“The process of gathering more information, that will assist in determining the cause of the accident, has begun.”

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