Celebration turns to tragedy for 87 Helicopter Flying School


What should have been an occasion to remember with AFB Bloemspruit-based 87 Helicopter Flying School (HFS) turned into tragedy when a guest fell 40 metres to his death.

According to Media24, Pretoria business Tom de Lange (61), a member of the Vulture Club, supporters of 87 HFS, apparently lost his balance while standing on a ledge above the Inkosana waterfall in the Drakensberg.

He and other Vulture Club members had been transported to the site by an Oryx medium transport helicopter as part of an annual outing.

Everyone present saw De Lange, who died on impact, fall off the ledge.

The media house had not received any official comment from the SAAF following a written request.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed the incident and said it happened at around 4.15pm on Friday.

Vulture Club members and their families join 87 HFS personnel at Dragon Peaks in the Drakensberg for an annual exercise where one of the traditions sees new members transported by helicopters to the bottom of the waterfall. Water is then scooped from the fall while the helicopter hovers above. The water is then added to what the media house termed “an expensive whisky” as a toast.

Media24 said it appeared de Lange and two other Vulture Club members were sitting on a water-soaked ledge to look at new members being initiated with the mountain water/whisky toast when he apparently stood up, lost his balance and fell to his death.