28 Years On – We Remember

Worst tragedy to hit the SA horseracing industry

The Hennenman Memorial Pinnacle Stakes will be run at Turffontein on Saturday in memory of those who died on Tuesday 12 April 1988, when a United Airways charter flight crashed near the Free State town of Hennenman on its return from a racemeeting in Bloemfontein.

The memorial on the site of the old Newmarket Racecourse (Pic - Clinton Hattingh)

The memorial on the site of the old Newmarket Racecourse (Pic – Clinton Hattingh)

It is 28 years since the worst tragedy to hit South African horseracing devastated the lives of so many people involved.

The meeting was due to have been held the previous week, with the racing party booked to travel on a scheduled South African Airways flight.

But when rain forced the postponement of the meeting, SAA couldn’t accommodate a booking change and a plane was specially chartered to transport jockeys and officials to Bloemfontein and back again.

Later, the logbook of the aged United Airways Dakota revealed that it had not been properly serviced and maintained.


Hennenman Memorial plaque (Pic – Clinton Hattingh)

Fuel leaked and a fire started in the starboard engine, later spreading to the fuselage. The subsequent inquiry failed to pin blame for the disaster on anyone, with United Airways having gone into liquidation in the interim.

Greg Holme

Greg Holme was a talented jockey

Many of the riders were under the age of 22 and the tragedy resulted in an enormous pool of talent lost to the industry overnight. Rooies Fourie was the Transvaal Champion Jockey at the time.

Twenty-four people died in the tragedy.


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.


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


Jacobus Viljoen and Neville Blignaut


Hennie van Wyk

Air Crew:

Jacob Kalt, Harold Whitehead and Jacqueline Henderson.

Their memory lives on.

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