pilot and 2 kids die in chopper crash

TWO children and a man were burnt to death yesterday when a helicopter they were flying in crashed and burst into flames.

The accident happened at Msholozi village outside White River in Mpumalanga yesterday at about 7am.

The deceased were identified as George Snyman, 49, who was the pilot. He was with Zandrie Germishuizen, 8, and Cindie Nel, 11. They all lived on the farm Rhenorsterhoek in Nelspruit.

When the Sowetan team arrived on the scene at about noon, the badly burnt bodies were lying under the smouldering wreckage.

Three hours later the bodies were still trapped as police were waiting for a Civil Aviation team from Pretoria .

Local resident Nomzamo Magaga said they were asleep when they heard a loud bang and saw smoke coming out of the bushes.

"We did not know what was happening, "she said.

"Most of us villagers rushed to the scene and found that it was a crashed plane".

Another villager, Lorraine Mayisa, said she was thankful the explosion did not happen on top of their roofs.

"I heard the plane flying low over the village," she said.

"But shortly after the explosion my husband and I knew it was a plane crash."

The crash nearly caused a wildfire but members of Working on Fire, an NGO that fights fires, managed to contain it.

Superintendent Abie Khoabane said the cause of the crash was unknown and that investigations were under way to establish what might have caused it .