Narrative:The aircraft (named 'Rietbok') was approaching East London in bad weather. Last report from the aircraft was when the crew reported at 2000 feet with the coastline in sight. The aircraft crashed into the sea one minute later.
Bits of floating wreckage, consisting mainly of cabin interior fittings, were recovered by naval vessels and other pieces were washed ashore.
The main wreckage of the aircraft is believed to he lying at a depth of between 180 and 220 feet, approximately 1½ miles off-shore. Extensive salvage operations were attempted, but were hindered by murky water, a current up to 8 kts. and dangerous sea conditions.
PROBABLE CAUSE: "The available data is not sufficient for the originating cause of the accident to be determined with any degree of probability. In the opinion of the Board certain possibilities can be excluded as being consistent with the evidence and/or as being remote and improbable; among these possibilities are structural failure, failure of the controls, or control surfaces, multiple engine failure, instrument failure, explosion, fire, a 'bad weather' accident and pilot error.
However, on the evidence the Board cannot exclude as the originating cause of the accident a heart attack suffered by the captain in the air, with ensuing loss of control of the aircraft, and with the first officer being unable in the time available to regain sufficient control to prevent contact with the sea."
It was later rumored that the aircraft crashed as a result of a structural failure, because comparable accidents happened during that time.
» Rietbok: new evidence (Daily Dispatch, April 20, 2001)
This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not
display the exact flight path.
Distance from Port Elizabeth Airport to East London Airport as the crow flies is 230 km (144 miles).