It was when pilot Hendrik “Bees” Marais was killed in a helicopter accident in Cape Point, fighting the devastating fires in March last year, followed soon after by helicopter pilot Darrell Rea and firefighting helicopter safety leader Justin Visagie in April fighting the fires in Baineskloof that Far South resident Stuart Dobson began mulling over a memorial for emergency workers.
His research revealed that the only memorial was in Pretoria, for airforce members who had lost their lives.
It was personal, because Mr Dobson had served under Bees Marais in the Air Force.
”We need to honour the men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice and appreciate those that still serve with pride and dignity,” Mr Dobson said.
It took him almost a year but eventually he managed to arrange for a memorial to be set up at the Stellenbosch Airfield, chosen because, he said, aviation plays an important role in all emergency services whether fire suppression duty, transporting a patient to a health care facility or performing sea and mountain rescues.
The plaque reads: “In honour of all pilots, air crew, Air Mercy Service, search and rescue emergency services and volunteers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”
The main speaker at the unveiling on April 29 was the mayor of Stellenbosch, Conrad Sidego.
Mr Dobson thanked all those who still kept watch over our shores, to the pilots assisting in rescues, the firefighters fighting fires and the medical personnel responding to emergencies, saying that his journey was not finished.
He said he would like to start collecting names of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty across South Africa so that a roll of honour can be erected in each province.
Organisations that would like to propose names for the roll of honour for those who died in the line of duty can send their proposals (including clear details of who and from what station or service) to firstname.lastname@example.org or 072 255 2692.