Six painful days punctuated with deep shock and disbelief today culminated in a moving ceremony for the five extraordinary individuals who lost their lives in a tragic helicopter accident near Winterton in KwaZulu-Natal last week.
It was a long, emotional day for the families, loved ones and colleagues of healthcare heroes Rudolf, Siya, Mpho, Sinjin and pilot Mark. The mourners travelled in convoy from Johannesburg to the crash site in the UThukela District early in the morning.
A cloud-covered day dawned over the city and the Hillbrow Tower was appropriately shrouded in mist as the vehicles made their sombre journey to a remembrance service for the five fallen heroes. Along the route, colleagues from emergency medical services, the South African Police Service and members of the public silently stood vigil as the convoy passed.
In a field, on a farm near Winterton, five white crosses now mark the place where Dr Kgopotso Rudolf Mononyane, Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Siya) Mahlangu, Mpho Xaba, all from Netcare Milpark Hospital, Sinjin Joshua Farrance of Netcare 911 and Mark Stoxreiter from National Airways Corporation (NAC) died in the line of duty.
In paying tribute to his colleagues, Netcare Group CEO, Dr Richard Friedland said, “We are here today to bear testimony to the lives of these great human beings, to continue their unfinished legacy of healing and bringing hope.
“At this hallowed site, their heroic and remarkable lives were cut short and a gaping hole remains. We will never be able to adequately articulate the magnitude of this loss nor make sense of it, and yet we are left with that impossible task as we reach out our arms to you, their loved ones, in hope and comfort.
“These five selfless and extraordinary individuals were on a mercy mission doing G-d’s holy and sacred work, saving lives. This was their calling, their purpose. There is no greater act of humanity than to lose one’s life in attempting to rescue the life of another. We know G-d uses good people to do great things, and we need not look any further than these young, talented, extraordinary individuals who embody what it means to be a hero. Every day for them was an act of courage and they were the personification of strength, compassion and grace.
“Our hearts are broken, we mourn the loss of these fallen heroes, these frontline workers who have given so selflessly, so courageously of themselves. Our hearts are shattered for you, their families, children, loved ones, friends and colleagues whom they have left behind.
“Our thoughts too are with our beloved colleagues at Netcare 911, Netcare Milpark Hospital and NAC. The national outpouring of grief is testimony to the enormous contribution that Mpho, Rudolf, Siyabonga, Sinjin and Mark have made, each in their own unique way,” added Dr Friedland.
Reading from Maya Angelou’s poem, When great trees fall, Craig Grindell, Managing Director of Netcare 911, added his voice to a deeply meaningful and poignant ceremony, attended only by close family members and accompanying colleagues of the deceased.
The programme director for the day was Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba, Group Human Resources Director of Netcare, while the choir of Netcare St Anne’s Hospital performed a poignant musical tribute.
A prayer and words of comfort were provided by Pastor Craig Hounson and Pastor Abraham Masinga, while David Stanton, Head of Clinical and Education of Netcare 911, explained the significance of the five indigenous trees that were planted at the site of the accident.
“These five indigenous trees were planted here as a living memorial to represent the five diverse and loved individuals. They will continue to grow and bloom every season to commemorate their memories and their lives. Trees provide life in many forms, from being a source of food, shelter, oxygen and medicine, as well as being held in many cultures as spiritually important and often revered.
“The ancient symbol of the tree has been found to represent physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation, liberation and union. Trees represent resilience, as a tree bends in the storm just as we weather the daily struggles of life.
“These significant trees will grow here, thriving and providing their shade and nourishment to all those who visit. These trees planted here are real living things, serving as a growing memorial to the lives of our five brave heroes,” said Stanton.
Dr Friedland pledged to the families that Netcare would find a way to ensure that the lives of Mpho, Rudolf, Siyabonga, Sinjin and Mark continue to bring light to this world.
“We will continue to carry you all in our hearts, and we stand here before you steadfast in our commitment to walk in their footsteps, to honour their legacies for you and your children. May they be carried on the wings of angels to their rightful place in heaven. May their beloved souls rest in peace. Hambani Kahle MaQhawe,” concluded Dr Friedland.
Special note: The hearses with the departed heroes arrived at the site of the accident at 15h45 this afternoon. The convoy is now making its way back to Johannesburg.
Notes for editors
PROGRAMME OF EVENTS – 27 JANUARY 2021
Visit of families of our fallen heroes to site of helicopter accident
Netcare St Anne’s Choir – Be Still and Know That I Am GOD
Welcoming by programme director, Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba, Group Human Resources Director, Netcare
Prayer by Pastor Craig Hounson
Eulogy on behalf of Netcare and NAC by Dr Richard Friedland, Chief Executive Officer, Netcare
Reading of Maya Angelou’s “When Great Trees Fall” Craig Grindell, Managing Director, Netcare 911
Opportunity for tributes and eulogies by family members
Family members to lay wreaths at crosses
Netcare St Anne’s Choir – You Are Holy My Lord and The Holy Spirit Must Come Down and Africa Will be Saved
Words of Comfort by Pastor Abraham Masinga
Planting of trees: David Stanton, Head of Clinical and Education, Netcare 911
Time and space allowed for families to be at site and for personal rituals to be performed
Arrival of hearses
Meaning of the trees
These five indigenous trees will be planted here as a living memorial to represent five diverse and loved individuals. They will continue to grow and bloom every season to commemorate their memories and their lives.
Trees provide life in many forms, from being a source of food, shelter, oxygen and medicine, as well as being held in many cultures as spiritually important and often revered. The ancient symbol of the tree has been found to represent physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation, liberation and union. Trees represent resilience, as a tree bends in the storm just as we weather the daily struggles of life.
Umdoni (Waterbessie): A hardy tree with lush leaves is rich in honey and fruit that attracts bees and wild birds. The bark is known for its medicinal uses.
Wild Olive: Is believed by the Maasai to be a tree of holiness and solemnity, the olive is also the international symbol of peace.
Umdagane (Birds Eye): Is believed to have protective powers and is said to ward off bad spirits.
Pambati tree: Latin name, Integerrima, which means Entire, Undivided and Complete.
Wild Pear: In ancient times the wild pear was a symbol of divine sustenance, abundance and longevity. The pear fruit has also been seen to represent love and separation.
These significant trees will grow here, thriving and providing their shade and nourishment to all those who visit. These trees planted here are real living things, serving as a growing memorial to the lives of our five brave heroes.
Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare and Netcare 911
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