CAPE TOWN - In light of the devastation of the recent blaze across the Southern Cape Peninsula, and all those who put their lives at risk to contain it, there was an outpouring of grief over the news of the accidental death of helicopter pilot, Willem Hendrik “Bees” Marais on Sunday.
He was alone in the helicopter when he was forced to make a hard landing in the reserve. His chopper went down just before midday.
Marais was a skilled pilot who also worked at the South African Air Force, South African Police Services and the South African Red Cross Air Mercy Service.
Over the past week, Marais had been part of the fire-fighters who'd spent their days battling the Cape fire.
A friend and ex-Air Mercy Service work colleague, Adele Walker, remembers him fondly as a "very special gentleman... a humble man, an exceptionally skilled helicopter pilot with years of experience."
"He was loved & admired by many," she told eNCA.com.
It's not clear yet whether the fire Marais was water-bombing on Sunday caused the crash.
The Civil Aviation Authority says it's opening an investigation.
On behalf of WoF deepest condolences to the family of Willem "Bees" Marias A brave warrior fighting fires past wk in CT MD Llewellyn Pillay— Working on Fire (@wo_fire) March 8, 2015
Bees Marais who was killed today in chopper crash visited our son post op in hosp 11 years ago in full flying kit as his hero RIP. Respect— Mike Kabat (@mikekabat) March 8, 2015
Hendrik 'Bees' Marais flew me 6 days ago to get aerial footage of the fire. How awful... pic.twitter.com/62Qk81BnX5— Aletta Gardner (@AlettaGardner) March 8, 2015
Extremely sad when a hero who risks his life everyday to help us all dies on the job. #BeesMarais RIP.— Annika Larsen (@AnnikaLarsen1) March 8, 2015