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British pilot killed in chopper crash after proposing to girlfriend

A BRITISH pilot has tragically died after his helicopter crashed four months after proposing to his girlfriend.

Stewart Graham, 25, had been “living the dream” after moving to South Africa when his chopper clipped an electricity pylon while spraying crops.

The pilot, from Edinburgh, Scotland, had popped the question to his girlfriend Jess Schmid in September last year.

On Instagram, Stewart wrote about his new life on the African continent, saying: “Proudly Scottish, born and raised. Living the dream in South Africa.”

He was killed in the early hours of January 19 while spraying pesticide on a pear orchard in the town of Wolseley.

His Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, loaded with 295 kilograms of chemicals, reportedly clipped the earth cable of an electricity pylon and plummeted nose-first into the ground after breaking apart in midair.

Stewart was killed instantly, reports say.

A four-month investigation concluded there were no signs of a mechanical failure in the moments leading up to the crash or poor weather conditions.

Stewart, right, from Edinburgh, was killed when his crop-spraying helicopter crashed into a pear orchard
Stewart, right, from Edinburgh, was killed when his crop-spraying helicopter crashed into a pear orchardCredit: Newsflash
An earth cable similar to the one Stewart allegedly clipped before crashing
An earth cable similar to the one Stewart allegedly clipped before crashingCredit: Newsflash

A report by South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority read: “It is possible that at the time of collision with the earth conductor, the helicopter might have been in a nose-down attitude.

“This might have prompted the pilot to attempt an evasive manoeuvre which may have resulted in one of the main rotor blades severing the left-front and midsection of the helicopter, as well as the tail boom section.

“The distribution of the wreckage is indicative of an in-flight break-up, which resulted in the helicopter’s debris being scattered at a diameter of about 80 metres around the main wreckage.”

Stewart was in the air from 4am and landed briefly at 5.40am to refuel and load more pesticides.

Ten minutes later, Koos Moller – who owned the orchard – heard a loud popping sounds followed by a few seconds of silence and then a loud crash.

Moller rushed over to the wreckage where he found Graham’s body.

The helicopter was found roof-down and billowing in smoke.

“The farm owner observed that the earth conductor of the high-tension power cable was missing, which led to the power outage in the neighbouring town (Ceres),” the report noted

Stewart worked as operations manager for Heli X Charters and had flown over 1,360 hours since getting his commercial licence in 2017.

According to TimesLIVE, he had 500 hours flight experience in the single-engine Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, commonly used for crop spraying in southern Africa.

He had also become engaged four months prior to his death and called it a “privilege to live and fly in such a beautiful country” in a recent social media post.

sunit

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