Wed. 24 April 2002. From the Cape Argus newspaper.
Fire guts Skydive Cape Town
Two Cessna aircraft and parachutes worth R6 million were destroyed in a suspected arson attack at Melkbosstrand near Cape Town on Tuesday morning, Western Cape police said. The fire started around 03:00 in a hanger at a parachute club said Superintendent Wicus Holtzhausen. "The hanger and everything inside it have been destroyed."
The club is situated on Peter Dale's farm along the West Coast Road between Atlantis and Melkbosstrand some 20km from Cape Town. "Dale noticed the flames and alerted police," Holtzhausen said.
"Details are still sketchy, but we suspect that it was arson," he said. "There is no electricity or any other power supply that could have caused the fire."
A number of homeless people live in the dense vegetation along the West Coast Road in the immediate vicinity, but no witnesses have yet come forward.
Equipment lost in the fire includes:
11 Vector Tandem Rigs
12 Student Rigs
Private gear of more than 20 members.
The whole hangar
After three days of shock and disbelief, only slightly dulled by copious amounts of alcohol , the staff and a few members and friends of Skydive Cape Town, got together at the Drop Zone to do a few jumps on Fri. 26 April.
The aircraft used was ZS-EJM, a C 210T flown by owner Brett Shaw. After the three loads, we held a braai at the scene of devastation. Landlord, Peter Dale supplied some wine to supplement the volumes of beers etc. that was brought along. Luckily "Paul's Poo Palace" (the toilets) , survived the fire.
The universal consensus was that we should continue, and try and rebuild.
This senseless act deprived many people of their skydiving possessions, but obviously not of their pride and fighting spirit.
Assistance from friends
Offers of help from friends quickly poured in from near and wide. We hired some parachutes from a few sources to keep on jumping. Other people donated old (and not so old) gear, and even cash, to the cause. Some just gave their regards, we appreciate it all.
Many thanks especially to:
All our loyal staff and members.
The Committee and members of our neighbours, Skydive Citrusdal.
Skydive Extreme-Carlos and Paul Garcia Cabral ; Duitser Gebhardt.
Bloemfontein Skydiving Centre.
T-Bone. Hylton Bouwer. Gordon Blamire.
Felicia Webster ; Glenda Miles ; Tom & Mardi (The Drop Out Club) ; James Meyer ; Ron Brune ; Tonto ; Riaan Pietersen ; Rod Alexander and Terryl Cliffe ; Assorted members of JSC.
(This is in no particular order, forgive me if I left anybody out, again, we appreciate all help and wishes)
As the months progressed, Skydive Cape Town slowly started replacing the lost gear, and by mid 2003, had sufficient Tandem and student rigs to be independent once more.
The two aircraft which were destroyed in the fire belonged to Andre Wagner. He was insured, has been paid out and has replaced them with a 1976 C-206U (back door). He had it modified for Skydiving with an in-flight door and handles, and it is now available to both Skydive Cape Town and Skydive Citrusdal as needed.
ZS-DOU, our own C-182, which was in for a MPI and repair of a broken nose-wheel, returned in May, and was immediately hard at work.
ZS-EJM, a C 210T was purchased to join DOU.
The remains of the burnt-out hangar were dismantled in June and cleared off the slab.
Rebuilding of a slightly larger hanger started in August, and completed October.
Initially all the rigs were loaded into Long Pete's Venture and taken home every night, next day loaded up and driven out again. Packing happened in the surviving shade netting area next to the canteen.
A fire proof bunker was erected in the completed hanger, and the rigs now sleep (fully insured this time) in security.
Now, more than a year later, things are starting to look up. We continue to improve the facilities. Feel free to drop in any time.