A highly-experienced parachutist of the South African Air Force (SAAF’s) elite Golden Eagles Parachute Team has been killed while preparing for the Virginia Air Show in Durban.
Warrant Officer Brian Slade, a founding member of the team, jumped out of the SAAF C-47TP Dakota and apparently struck the tail plane as he exited the aircraft. IOL and other reports said the skydiver struck the ground at the Beachwood Golf Course near Virginia, the air show location. Durban Air Show spokesman Ray de Vries said about Slade, who fell to his death around 11 A.M. on July 16:
"It's very unusual, I must say. I've never heard of that and he had 6,000 jumps to his credit -- so he certainly was no rookie. He was a Pretoria resident and is believed to be in his 50s. His next of kin have been notified." Eyewitness News quoted De Vries saying:
“The aviation community is quite shattered. It’s never happened before where there’s been any fatality at an air show. There will be special commemoration for him.”
De Vries pointed out that the Virginia Air Show had been running for 54 years. He said:
“It’s really sad. You have a whole lot of aviation staff getting together. This is the second-longest running civilian air show in the world and it’s a horrible way to open it. But the show will go on.”
Aviators and enthusiasts from as far away as Dubai and the US are in Virginia, Durban. The SAAF has begun an investigation into the accident.
Fatal accidents at South African air shows are very rare, but last year, experienced pilot Dave Stock was killed when his English Electric Lightning crashed at the Overberg Air Show near Cape Town last November, as reported in Digital Journal.