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Brit killed in chopper crash after proposing to girlfriend said he loved ‘flying in such a beautiful country’

A BRITISH pilot said he was “living the dream” in South Africa before his life was tragically cut short in a horrific helicopter crash.

Stewart Graham, 25, who proposed to his girlfriend four months before the accident, boasted of “flying in such a beautiful country” in a social media post.


Stewart with fiancee Jess Schmid during a trip to Scotland in 2019[/caption]


The mangled wreckage of the Brit’s helicopter following the crash[/caption]


A Twitter post by Graham from 2016[/caption]

Stewart, from Edinburgh, Scotland, was planning a wedding with his South African fiancee Jess Schmid after their engagement in September 2020.

The Scot regularly shared posts about his new life after moving to the African continent.

He called it a “privilege to live and fly in such a beautiful country” in a recent social media post.

After proudly announcing the engagement on Facebook last year his pals responded “so happy for you” and “congratulations.”

On Instagram, Graham wrote about his new life saying: “Proudly Scottish, born and raised. Living the dream in South Africa.”

The Scot was killed in the early hours of January 19 when the chopper he was flying clipped an electricity pylon and crashed in a nearby orchard in the town of Wolseley

In March, fiance Jess received an outpouring of support when she posted a photo of her and Stewart on her Facebook account.

“Sending you love, strength and courage,” posted one user.

“Sending you all my love my darling,” added another.

“I feel for you so much…”

British pilot Stewart, with his girlfriend Jess Schmid, died after crashing his helicopter in January

Stewart was enjoying his new life in South Africa before the tragedy[/caption]


The happy couple on a tour of Scotland. Graham proposed to his South African girlfriend four months prior to his death[/caption]

The couple had spent the summer of 2019 travelling through Scotland, with Jess, an aspiring YouTube influencer, posting clips of their adventures online.

Stewart was flying a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, loaded with 295 kilograms of pesticide, when he reportedly clipped the earth cable of an electricity pylon and plummeted nose-first into the ground after breaking apart in midair.

He was killed instantly, reports say.

The Brit was in the air from 4am and landed briefly at 5.40am to refuel and load more pesticides, which he was spraying over a nearby pear orchard.

Ten minutes later, Koos Moller – whose field Stewart was flying over – heard loud popping sounds followed by a few seconds of silence and then a loud crash.

Moller rushed over to the wreckage where he found the pilot’s body.

The helicopter was found roof-down and billowing in smoke.


Stewart, right, from Edinburgh, was killed when his crop-spraying helicopter crashed into a pear orchard[/caption]


An earth cable similar to the one Stewart allegedly clipped before crashing[/caption]

“The farm owner observed that the earth conductor of the high-tension power cable was missing, which led to the power outage in the neighbouring town (Ceres),” the report noted.

Stewart worked for Heli X Charters, where he was flight operations manager.

He had flown for 1,360 hours since obtaining his commercial licence in June 2017, and had nearly 500 hours’ experience in the Bell Jet Ranger, a single-engined helicopter used in crop-spraying operations across Southern Africa.

A four-month probe by South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority said there were no signs of a mechanical failure in the moments leading up to the crash or poor weather conditions.

The report read: “It is possible that at the time of collision with the earth conductor, the helicopter might have been in a nose-down attitude.

“This might have prompted the pilot to attempt an evasive manoeuvre which may have resulted in one of the main rotor blades severing the left-front and midsection of the helicopter, as well as the tail boom section.

“The distribution of the wreckage is indicative of an in-flight break-up, which resulted in the helicopter’s debris being scattered at a diameter of about 80 metres around the main wreckage.”

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