They Gave Their Lives in the Service of Peace

They “gave their lives in the service of peace”.  That is what some UN spokesperson had to say today.  That sure sounds noble, doesn’t it?  I hope that gives at least a little solace to the families of those who died on Monday evening.  The one thing that is for sure is that none of the 17 people on the flight that day intended to give their lives in the service of peace, at least not the rest of their lives. 

On Monday evening I my phone rang when I got in to the lodge here just outside of Johannesburg.  It was Dawson calling.  I figured that he was calling to see how the validation process was going.  I was happy to tell him that it was successful and that I would just have to pick up the paperwork in the morning.  He told me that the 1900 was overdue and that they couldn’t reach them via radio or cell phone or any other way.  There was no contact from them after their initial call to Bukavu tower.  I knew the area around there and knew that this wasn’t good. 

In my mind, I was back in the hotel room in Seattle a couple years ago when I got the call that they couldn’t find Carl.  My mouth is dry and I have the distinct taste of vomit in my throat.  I hoped it was some big mistake.  The guys were slacking on their HF calls and were on approach to Goma.  They were going to get a talking to for not following procedure and then sit down to dinner with the rest of the bunch at the house. 

Sitting here in South Africa, I watch the sun set without hearing a word from anyone in Goma.  The sick feeling that I’ve had in the pit of my stomach has grown.  I need to throw up.  I turn on the TV just to fill the silence.  CNN has floods in India or something; the Republican national convention… the nausea builds.  National Geographic channel… Seconds from Disaster.  I go throw up. 

Tuesday morning I get out of bed after not sleeping.  I have to drive to the CAA to pick up my paperwork.  While on the road, my phone buzzes with a text message:  “They found it all over the ridge”.  I pull the car to the side of the road and dry-heave my intestines out.  I manage to make it to the CAA and sit in the lobby numb head to toe.  The paperwork comes through and I head out.  I get in the car and can’t get the keys in the ignition.  It takes a few moments for me to wonder where the steering wheel is before I realize that I got in the wrong side of the car. 

Every time I lose a friend to this business, flying gives me less joy.  Now I have to add Rudi and Ronny to the list of names of the fallen. 

“The larger the threat, the more profound the doubts, the deeper you have to dig to find faith and conquer your fears.”
Kenneth Cain


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15 Responses to “They Gave Their Lives in the Service of Peace”

  1. Dad Says:

    Too much tragedy in a young life. That’s why we keep you in prayer.

  2. Alex Says:

    I’m sorry Pat, be safe out there, I’ll talk to you soon.

  3. Jonathan Says:

    I prayed it wasn’t you Pat, and for that, I am thankful. My condolences for your friends. They had a higher calling. Be safe.

  4. mormor Says:

    Oh, Patrick, your mom told me about your blog, I read it, and got a big knot in my stomach, actually nauseated! I pray for your safety daily, and trust that God will keep you safe….but…be Careful!! love, mormor

  5. David Says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss man. I will be praying for you and the family of your friends. Keep safe man.

  6. Kristina Says:

    Sorry, Patrick

  7. Auntie Says:

    So sorry to hear about your friends. All of you are doing a very great and noble thing that will not be forgotten.

  8. Alfred Says:


    Sorry to hear about the loss!!

    May God give you peace and and shower you with Grace!! Don’t forget that we all think about you and are praying for you and your safety!!

    take care bud,

  9. Chandre Says:

    I know it is a bit late . . .

    May God be with you all. May He give you peace and serenity. We will never forget them for the brave individuals they where. They touched our hearts in ways we can not believe. They taught us things about life, that should never be taken for granted.

    But I was thinking about Rudi today (actually every single day), and I wanted to say something about this astonishing young man.

    Rudi Knoetze, was a man of love a man of peace and he placed other people before himself, ALWAYS! ! !
    I loved him so much, he ment the world to me. He will always always be in my heart . . .
    Like you can see on his picture, he was a fun, loving, caring man. . .


    Lots of love, care, sympathy, hugs and kisses to all the individuals they left behind to go to heaven to be with God, King of all Kings.

    God Bless you all


  10. Johan Knoetze Says:

    My son Rudi Knoetze was killed in an airplane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the 1st September 2009. They were flying humanitarian aiders. The incident was covered in several newspapers and on radio in South Africa. I waited three days for the forces to remove his body from the mountain. I waited another week for his body to arrive in South Africa. The information received was that the whether was bad and that the pilots flew into a mountain. This aircraft is operated by two pilots and they flew a leg at a time. By this I mean that my son, who was also a captain on this aircraft (both pilots were captains), flew from Goma to Kisangani. At the time of the accident the other pilot (Ronnie) flew from Kisangani to Bukavu and 15km before the airport, this accident occurred.

    Following from this, I have done the following:

    Obtained photos regarding the accident and studied them. I must also mention that I am not an aviation expert but, work in the Forensic Department of a large corporate institution, and the photos did not tell the same story.
    Appointed an investigator, who was at the scene of the accident to do me a report (His report reflected that there was either an explosion on board or that they were shot down by missile.
    Contacted the NTSB (Dennis Jones) in America in order to get clarity on what happened and requested the report on the black box (Flight Data Recorder) – I was told to work through the official channels and to request the South African Embassy to get the information from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
    I contacted the United Nations, as 15 passengers were also killed, most of them being UN soldiers – I was told that they are not doing an investigation, which I find to be very strange.
    My son was contracted by CEMAIR, a company at Lanseria airport and they then hired the aircraft and crew to Air Serv in America. (Wet Lease) I contacted Air Serv in order to find out if they are conducting an investigation. I was told that they are also not conducting an investigation. This is also very strange to me as they were the operating company within the DRC. I obtained the contract between the Cemair and Air Serv together with the operating certificates.
    I contacted Mr. Mamoepa’s office on the 18th May 2009 and asked them for assistance. I forwarded a follow up e-mail on 2nd June 2009 and did not receive any assistance, except for acknowledgment of receipt (See e-mails below) I e-mailed his office again on the 6th July 2009 and again got conformation that the South African Embassy in Kinshasa requested the information. (See e-mail below) I have again forwarded e-mails on 7th and 8th September, but to no avail.
    I established that the aircraft voice cockpit recorder was removed and noticed from the photos that it was blanked off. However, I was told by Cemair that it was destroyed during the accident.
    I visited Civil Aviation South Africa and asked them why they did not get involve. I was told that it was not worthwhile to investigate, as all the passengers on board were dead and that it was not worthwhile to send anybody from there authority to do an investigation. It was also mentioned to me that charity begins at home at that a number of reports were outstanding. After begging them to get me the necessary information, they drew up a letter, which I had translated to French, and they forward this letter to the DRC, requesting information. They also promised me that if the information is not forthcoming, that they would send a representative to the DRC to get the information. This was only empty promises, as they promised to visit the DRC during July, again during September, but this never materializes. I find it very strange that they did not get involve from the beginning and is still reluctant to get involve 10 months later.
    I appointed a second investigator to investigate the circumstances. A lot of facts were established by him, but he cannot conclude his investigation without the co-ordinates, the weather conditions (which I might receive at a cost) and most importantly the report/information on the flight data recorder.

    To conclude and in view of all the facts above, I am desperate to get the report on the black box (flight data recorder information) and the report from the DRC, and will not be able to get closure on my sons death unless I know what happened. My frustration is that my son has been dead for more than a year and I cannot get the information needed. Although I followed all the official channels I also do not get any assistance from Civil Aviation South Africa, nor from the South African Embassy. I have attached some of the e-mails and will forward you the report issued by the investigator (first one) appointed by me.

    Johan Knoetze

  11. Alain Naour Says:

    Dear Sir,

    I am sorry for the loss of your son Rudi. I worked in Goma for Air Serv and flew many times in and out of Bukavu.

    Interacting with people in the DRC is very hard and frustrating. DRC is a thirld world country with tremendous problems. Most people in DRC worry more about their own survival and don’t dwell in the past. Perhaps if you were to go spend a little in Goma and Bukavu it would help you find some closure.
    I , however, would not want to spend much money with the Congolese authorities who -unfortunately- are accustomed to seeing death and who might be more interested in your money than in helping you know what really happened.

    Rudi did good work. He most likely did not suffer.

    Accept my sincere condolences.

    Alain Naour

  12. Johan Knoetze Says:


    Thank you for your message. Really appreciated. Johan

  13. Neville Says:

    Sterkte Johan – Neville, pasient by Wilgeheuwel Kliniek!

    Ek bid for jy en jou familie

    • Johan Knoetze Says:

      Hi Neville,

      Baie dankie vir jou mooi boodskap en denke. Jammer dat ek nou eers antwoord. Ons het verhuis en my “account” was in- active. Ek en my vrou waardfeer dit.


      Johan en Lensia Knoetze

  14. Johan Knoetze Says:

    Thank you for all your thoughts

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