The official inquiry into the Hennenman air disaster of 12 April 1988 appears to have been at best half-hearted and at worst botched. No-one was ever named as responsible for the Dakota catching fire in mid-flight, from Bloemfontein to Joburg, and crashing into a Free State mielie field, killing the 24 people on board.
From the eye-witness account of a local farmer who saw the horror unfold in the early autumn night sky, it seems fuel leaked from the starboard engine, caught alight and eventually consumed the craft in a ball of flame.
A logbook revealed the aged twin-engined plane had not been properly and regularly serviced. There were also allegations its airworthiness certificate had been falsified. These lines of inquiry seem not to have been vigorously pursued by government investigators.
By the time of the probe, operator United Airlines had gone bust and no-one in officialdom seemed inclined to cause its owners any more grief.
Grief was for the horse racing community, who lost 13 jockeys, along with some trainers and racetrack officials, in the crash. All passengers on the charter flight were racing folk returning to their Joburg homes after participating at a weekday meeting at the old Bloemfontein racecourse.
The industry remembers Henneman every year at a special fixture at Turffontein, with races named after the dead.
On Saturday, the occasion will have a special atmosphere as the bereaved families get together at the Big T for the first time in two years, with the pandemic crowd ban having been lifted.
Of those lost, all those years ago, the individual most readily remembered is Johannes “Rooies” Fourie, who was destined for greatness as a jockey on the South African turf – at least the match of the later great generation of Strydom, Whyte, Marcus, Lloyd and co, according to old-timers.
His race on Saturday is Race 2 – the Warren Bailie, Bennie de Wet, Rooies Fourie Greg Holme Graduation Plate over 1600m.
Appropriately named Outofthedarkness, from the Johan Janse van Vuuren yard, is heavily fancied to take the honours in the hands of another master rider, Gavin Lerena.
The two-time winning gelding’s last outing was in the 1800m SA Classic, when he encountered a few problems in running and was possibly stretched stamina-wise. Before that, he was a good third in the Gauteng Guineas, which had a line-up somewhat superior to this one.
1: 6 Rimaah, 1 A Colourful Past, 10 Tried And True, 4 I’ve Got Wings
2: 1 Outofthedarkness, 2 Whafeef, 7 About To Storm, 3 Fisher King
3: 6 Insatiable, 1 Irfaans Boy, 5 Imposing Angel, 3 Droghiere
4: 5 Retallick, 2 Quantum King, 7 Goliath Heron, 8 Spanish Boy
5: 1 Freed From Desire, 8 Anne Boleyn, 2 Celestial Love, 6 Mill Queen
6: 2 Corvette Captain, 1 Twice As Splendid, 5 Spiritofthegroove, 4 Paityns Pride
7: 3 Dawn Of A New Era, 4 Calibre Crest, 2 Let There Be Light, 8 Leshawes
8: 7 Woman Of Substance, 3 Saragon, 4 Eternal Life, 5 Castle Durrow
9: 9 Naval Guard, 10 Secret Is Ours, 6 My Master, 5 Grimaldi
10: 7 Kind Judy, 3 Global Louise, 1 Keepingthepeace, 8 Fasinada
Pick 6: 2,4,5,6,7,8 x 1 x 1,2,4,5 x 2,3,4 x 3,4,5,7,8,10 x 5,6,9,10 (R1728)
PA: 1,6 x 2,5,7 x 1 x 1,2,5 x 3 x 3,4,7 x 9,10 (R108)
Best: Race 3 No 5 Picara
Value: Race 7 No 8 Chantyman