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S. African pilot's mother: 'I wish this was all a bad dream'
Updated: 2004-05-30 16:07

Condolences have poured in family of the 34-year-old South African pilot who dreamt of flying his microlight plane around the world and died tragically in an air crash in central China when one of the wings of his plane broke off on Friday.

Steven Honeyborne, brother of the deceased pilot told Xinhua from Port Elizabeth on Saturday that his parents were in deep grief after they was informed of Allan Honeyborne's tragedy in China.

Roger Thomas, an old friend of Allan's and a member of the Algoa Microlight Aviation Club said that Honeyborne had been an inspiration to them all.

"He was a good friend. We had all been looking forward to reading his book that he wanted to write about his world trip. If he had returned to South Africa, he would have given motivational talks," he said.

Honeyborne, who was unmarried, and a fellow pilot, Ricky de Agrela, embarked on their round-the-world journey on 16 December to mark South Africa's 10 years of democracy and to collect money for the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town.

Honeyborne's mother, Jocelyn Honeyborne, said on Friday that De Agrela's brother, Roy, called her from Cape Town early on Friday morning with the news that her son may have died.

He said that Honeyborne had been flying behind his fellow adventurer. The two had been flying to Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, when Honeyborne told De Agrela over the radio that a wing had broken off and that he was flying in heavy cloud.

De Agrela then lost contact with Honeyborne. He flew on to Wunan city where he alerted the aviation authorities.

It is believed that about 800 police officers, the fire department and other emergency services then combed the Lake Dongting district where they eventually found Honeyborne's body.

Roy Honeyborne, the deceased's father, said that his son, an electrical engineer, started planning his trip two years ago and that he sold all his possessions to make his dream come true.

Honeyborne's mother was quoted by local paper Die Burger as saying: "We lived with the fear of something terrible happening every day. I wish this was all a bad dream and that I wake up from it soon."

"The day Allan told us he wanted to travel around the world, I was already terrified. I wondered the whole time how my child would manage to fly around the world in that little plane," she added.

She said her son had sent her an e-mail only a few days earlier, from Guilin, saying he was safe.

"Shortly before he left on the world trip I made a special blanket and I embroidered a world map on it. Every day I stuck pins into the places he had been to," she said.

The blanket would have been a gift to Allan once he'd completed his trip.

According to the Honeyborne couple, plans will be made to have their son's body flown back to South Africa.

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