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On Thursday it will be the 30-year anniversary of a tragedy that rocked the South African racing world. A chartered Dakota aircraft transporting a number of jockeys and officials back from racing in Bloemfontein came down in a mielie field near Hennenman in the Free State.

All 24 passengers lost their lives.

The disaster cast a pall over the whole country but especially the racing fraternity, who battled to absorb the shocking news. 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!

On Saturday, the lives of those jockeys, officials, owners, a trainer and crew members will be remembered at the 30th annual memorial meeting at Turffontein Racecourse.

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 specially chartered to transport jockeys and officials to and from Bloemfontein.

The full list of people who lost their lives is:
Jockeys: Warren Baillie, Keith Basel, Michael Coetzee, Bennie de Wet, Johannes “Rooies” Fourie, Greg Holme, Danny Lombard, John McMurtry, Mark Nel, Simon Rahilly, Lawrence Riley, Douglas Roper and Gordon Sterley.
Trainer: Hennie van Wyk.
Officials: Dave Bullock, Henry Havergall, Graham Kent, Ginger Masterton and Johannes van der Linden.
Owners: Neville Blignaut and Jacobus Viljoen.
Air crew: Jacob Kalt, Harold Whitehead and Jacqueline Henderson.

When one looks back on the last 30 years, those who lost loved ones can take solace in the words of American author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia: “I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.”

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