The Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) is in mourning after the horrific accident that claimed the lives of two pilots and an aircraft technician.
The pilots who perished are Wing Commander Thomas Tinashe Manyowa and Flight Lieutenant Anita Mapiye while the aircraft technician is Flight Sergeant Tinodiwanashe Chikamhi.
The helicopter accident also claimed the life of an 18-month-old toddler identified as Jade Fenyere, who was sleeping with her twin sister, Jada, when the Agusta Bell 412 (AB 412) helicopter crashed into their house.
Before the unfortunate accident, the deceased pilots, Wing Commander Manyowa and Flight Lieutenant Mapiye trended on the social media platforms after they recently flew one of the helicopters that transported officials to the opening ceremony of the new bridge to access Karanda Mission Hospital.
The late Wing Commander Manyowa was a highly proficient helicopter pilot with more than 20 years of flying experience. He was born on February 2, 1981, in Banket, and after attestation into the AFZ in 1999, he was commissioned as an officer and subsequently awarded his flying wings on 23 April 2001.
In addition to other routine flying tasks, he flew the AB 412 helicopter on a number of operations such as Search and Rescue missions after the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai in 2019 and the rescue and relief operations after the Tokwe-Mukosi floods in 2014.
The other pilot, the late Flight Lieutenant Mapiye, was born on April 3, 1991, in Harare and was attested into the AFZ on 27 September 2012. She earned her flying wings on 1 July 2017 after graduating at Number 6 Squadron at Josiah Tungamirai Air Force Base. In 2019, the late Flight Lieutenant Mapiye made history when she successfully completed a helicopter conversion course to become the first female combat helicopter pilot in the AFZ.
The aircraft technician, the late Flight Sergeant Chikamhi was born on 27 February 1994 in Zaka and was attested into the AFZ on 28 June 2013 as a trainee aircraft technician. He successfully completed the training in 2016 and was posted to Number 8 Squadron at Manyame Air Force Base, where he served as a helicopter technician until the time of his untimely death.
In his condolence message, Commander AFZ, Air Marshal Elson Moyo, paid tribute to the dedication to duty and excellence by the deceased pilots and technicians.
He said that one of the key factors for the successes scored by the AFZ, in the military and humanitarian assistance operations within and outside Zimbabwe, was training and the fact that the pilots and technicians died on a training mission was ample testimony of their determination to attain excellence in the execution flying tasks in defence of Zimbabwe’s airspace and territorial integrity.
“We have lost highly dedicated pilots and a technician and their pursuit of excellence were unparalleled. On behalf of the AFZ, and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to express deepest condolences to the Manyowa, Mapiye, and Chikamhi families as well as the Fenyere family who lost their child Jade Fenyere”.
Air Marshal Moyo said that while the AFZ was mourning the sad loss of the pilots and technician, it was also a moment to reflect and celebrate the achievements of the deceased officers and member as well as to draw valuable lessons from their exemplary service to the AFZ and the nation, at large.
Mourners for the late Wing Commander Manyowa are gathered at Number 28 Cheryl Road, Avondale, Harare while mourners for the late Flight Lieutenant Mapiye, are gathered at Number 2011, Cardinal Avenue, Arlington Park, Harare. For the funeral for the late Sergeant Chikamhi, mourners are gathered at Number 17685, Eastview, Harare. Funeral Parade and burial arrangements for the three will be announced in due course.