A Robinson R44 helicopter crashed into the Vaal Dam in South Africa on Friday evening, killing a well-known Johannesburg businessman and his sister.
Jacobus Esterhuysen, known to friends as “Essie,” was piloting the R44 helicopter with his sister Dané and two dogs on board. He was reportedly taking his sister on a weekend trip. He intended to land at Vaal Marina. Emergency officials received a call at about 6:00 p.m. local time reporting the R44 going down roughly 200 meters offshore. A bystander to the crash paddled a boat out to the wreckage and recovered Dané’s body. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Divers later recovered Mr. Esterhuysen’s lifeless body.
According to media reporting, Mr. Esterhuysen was an experienced pilot who had made the same landing at Vaal Marina many times. Aviation enthusiasts on Avcom expressed shock and dismay learning of the crash that claimed Esterhuysen’s life. Some wrote messages saying the South African aviation community had “lost a giant,” while others remembered Esterhuysen as a compassionate aviator who gave back to help those less fortunate.
Essie Esterhuysen was the founder of Esgro Group, known for the popular Steers and Wimpy franchises. Essie is survived by his wife, Mariana, and his son, Marinus. Dané is survived by her daughter, Géla le Roux, former Miss South Africa 2018.
What Caused the Vaal Dam Robinson R44 Crash?
Officials were able to extricate the wreckage from Vaal Dam. Investigators will evaluate the downed helicopter for clues on what may have caused the Vaal Dam crash. We may not know what caused the fatal crash for some time, as helicopter crash investigations generally take a year or more to complete. Once officials uncover the cause (or causes), they will issue a report and provide applicable safety recommendations.
Robinson Helicopter Company has a checkered safety history. According to government statistics, Robinson helicopters have been involved in at least 1,588 accidents or incidents worldwide. Those accidents killed 709 people and injured many more.
1002 total accidents
181 of those incidents were fatal
267 people killed
532 total accidents
196 were fatal
398 people killed
37 total accidents
18 were fatal
37 people killed*
*Robinson helicopter accident statistics extracted from the National Transportation Safety Board accident database as of May 3, 2021
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