South Africa — A helicopter pilot died in a crash while fighting wildfires in South Africa’s renowned Cape Point nature reserve Sunday, officials said.
The pilot, named as Hendrik “Bees” Marais, was among water-bombing firefighters hailed as heroes in a week-long battle against blazes raging through Cape Town’s scenic southern peninsula.
He died “when his Huey was in a forced landing while on wildfire suppression duty in the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park,” Working on Fire spokesman Evelyn Holtzhausen said.
Civil aviation authorities were working to determine the cause of the crash, he said.
A luxury hotel and more than a dozen homes in upmarket villages dotted along the coast of the peninsula were destroyed in the fires, whipped up by strong winds and high temperatures.
The threat to homes has been contained but the fires are still burning in the nature reserve, which is covered with flowering, shrublike vegetation known as fynbos, part of the unique Cape floral kingdom.
The southern peninsula, a mountainous spine of land running from the city to the Cape of Good Hope, Africa’s most southwestern tip, is known for its spectacular scenery and is a favourite international tourist destination.