“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.” –  Lithuanian poet and novelist Czesław Miłosz

On 12 April 1988 a chartered Dakota aircraft transporting a number of jockeys and officials back from racing in Bloemfontein on that Tuesday night came down in a mielie field near the town of Hennenman in the Free State.

With its starboard wing already ablaze, it skidded for 200m and exploded in a mass of flames. All 24 lives were lost in that crash in a tragedy that had a profound effect on South African horseracing.   

The country, and especially the racing fraternity, battled to absorb the shocking news the following morning and an air of disbelief pervaded race meetings for a number of weeks.

Many of those killed were jockeys under the age of 22 so a mass of riding talent was lost!

The full list of people who lost their lives is:

Jockeys: Keith Basel, Lawrence Riley, Johannes “Rooies” Fourie, Warren Baillie, Bennie de Wet, Greg Holme, Douglas Roper, Danny Lombard, John McMurtry, Mark Nel, Michael Coetzee, Simon Rahilly and Gordon Sterley.

Trainer: Hennie van Wyk

Officials: Graham Kent, Dave Bullock, Henry Havergall, Ginger Masterton and Johannes van der Linden

Owners: Jacobus Viljoen and Neville Blignaut

Air Crew: Jacob Kalt, Harold Whitehead and Jacqueline Henderson.

The sad irony of the disaster is that the meeting was scheduled to have taken place the previous week with the racing group booked to travel on a scheduled South African Airways flight.

However, when rain forced the postponement of the meeting, a plane was especially chartered to transport jockeys and officials to and from Bloemfontein.

Rooies Fourie is always in the forefront of conversations at the memorial meeting as many believe this mercurial rider would have been at least as good and possibly even better than the golden generation of jockeys that followed, among them Piere Strydom, Dougie Whyte, Anton Marcus, Weichong Marwing and Anthony Delpech.


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