Five people have died after the helicopter they were travelling in crashed near Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.

The passengers and pilot on board were transporting a Netcare machine from Johannesburg to the KwaZulu-Natal coast when the incident occurred. The events leading to the crash are unknown at this stage and is being investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Pictures that began circulating on social media shortly after the crash showed a column of black smoke coming from the burning wreckage.

In a statement, Netcare confirmed that a Netcare 911 helicopter had crashed.

Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare said “The whole of Netcare falls silent as we bow our heads in tribute, respect, love and memory of our fallen colleagues and frontline heroes who have died in the line of duty”.

“There are no words adequate to describe our sense of profound loss and grief at this terrible time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families”.

The managing director of Netcare 911, Craig Grindell said “We are profoundly saddened, and our deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of our colleagues aboard Netcare 1 air ambulance, which was carrying a pilot and four healthcare personnel on board when it crashed near Bergville”.

Grindell concluded that “We are shocked beyond words at the tragic loss of these healthcare heroes. The details surrounding the crash are not yet clear. We will however issue a further statement once more information becomes available and the next of kin of those aboard have been notified”.