Inquest begins on fatal Cronje plane crash

Published: Monday, August 7, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Cape Town:A South African court has begun hearing evidence on whether anyone was criminally liable for a 2002 plane crash, which killed disgraced former national cricket captain Hansie Cronje.

Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai has been tasked with making an official ruling on the likely cause of Cronje's death, state advocate Willem Tarantal told AFP at the Cape Town high court.

The judge would also have to determine "whether (the death) was brought about by an act or omission prima facie involving or amounting to an offence on the part of any person", according to a court document.

Tarantal started the hearing by providing oral testimony from Andre de Kock, the Civil Aviation Authority's senior aircraft accident investigator.

De Kock's evidence is based on a report he compiled on the June 1, 2002 crash that killed Cronje (32), pilot Willie Meyer (69) and co-pilot Ian Noakes (50).

A CAA probe found the accident to have been caused by a combination of pilot error, bad weather and technical defects on the aircraft -- a Hawker Siddeley 748.

The plane, under way from Bloemfontein in the central Free State province to George on the western coast, veered off course and crashed into a mountain north-east of the airport at George.

An international sporting hero, Cronje fell from grace after he confessed in 2000 to accepting money from gamblers and bookmakers during his captaincy of the South African cricket squad, but denied involvement in match fixing.

It was revealed at the inquiry that he had offered money to two team mates, Henry Williams and Herschelle Gibbs, to under-perform in one-day international tests.

He was subsequently barred from playing or coaching the game for life.

Cronje represented South Africa in 68 tests, 53 as skipper. He led his country to victory in 71 percent of the one-day internationals he captained, and 51 percent of test matches.

Two days have been set aside for the inquest hearing, Tarantal said.

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