RIP, Brave Hero

Sunday, 8 March 2015. I first saw the news of your death on Facebook, followed by the various news sites and Twitter. 

No one has mentioned your name; you are as anonymous in death as you were a nameless brave hero battling fires this past week, as they ravaged our beautiful province. 

I don’t know anything about you, and yet, through the stories I have read online from people on the frontline and your fellow firefighters, I know you are an extraordinary human being, who pushed yourself beyond the limits of exhaustion and personal safety in order to save the lives and property of people you didn’t know. I know that millions of my fellow South Africans KNOW you for the selfless hero you are. 

I don’t think any of us will know the true horror of what you and your colleagues have faced this past week – but I caught a glimpse over the past few days after Pierre Brophy, an airport firefighter, got in touch via Instagram when he saw I posted a photo of him, his colleague Yoland O’Ryan and their monster firefighting truck parked on the side of the road, close to Newlands Forest.

Since then, we’ve been chatting via Whatsapp almost daily, and through Pierre’s words I have discovered the humans behind that brave firefighting face, and heard just how difficult, how intense, how exhausting everything was, and ultimately what heroes you all are. 

Pierre Brophy and Yoland O’Ryan, Wed. 4 March 2015, 08:40am


When I took that photo on the side of the road, Pierre and his crew had pulled over because they were just too tired to carry on driving back to base. They had pushed themselves to breaking point – and yet, later that day they were back at the frontline, and would continue to fight for another four days, until the last of the flames were finally put out.

But today, another flare up took you back into the war zone, and claimed your life as you tried to stop more devastation from happening. You gave your life helping others – and for that, nothing will ever extinguish our respect and admiration for you. 

Rest in peace, brave hero. 

© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Featured image by Working On Fire 

UPDATE: The late pilot’s name has been released. Rest in peace, our hero Bees Marais.

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26 Comments

    1. Without a doubt! This man was very human, like all of us, but chose to push beyond his human limitations in the service of his community and that makes him such a giant of a man.

  1. I didn’t and do not know any of them but on hearing those huge birds clutter clutter over our home, I would rush out and wave, not knowing if they ever saw or noticed. I had a strange love affair with them, watching their every deft move as they carried bucket after bucket of water over our homes to extinguish the fires above Lakeside, sometimes receiving a spray of water in the process. Listening to the drone of their motors as they retrieved buckets of water and praying daily for their safety. My heart always lurched when I heard them, knowing they were off again to save some property and put out some fire. I will never ever be able to visit Cape Point again without thinking of the loss of his life, fighting to save the nature reserve and its precious animals. Goodbye, brave hero, may you fly with the Angels in peace, now. I, personally, will miss you. You will never be forgotten. Thank you for sharing your post with the rest of us, Bloggsy Malone.

    1. It’s through stories like yours, Carol, that we see the hope that men and women like Bees brought in such a desperate time. Thank you for sharing!

    2. Oh, I love your words Carol, I also always rush out and watch planes or hellies over our house. Also, sometimes wave, wondering if they actually notice. Laugh at myself for being silly. Perhaps they did see and thought how nice she is waving! I Wave you on your way with the angels. God bless your family and give them the strength to carry on without

  2. two Heroes gone but with the next rains the buds will emerge .new growth to Honour the lives and life of all who served the Fairest Cape in time of need.

  3. A great tribute Dave. I just noticed ER24 released the name of the pilot.

    ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd.
    31 mins ·
    Our deepest condolences to family, friends and colleagues of Willem Hendrik “Bees” Marais.

    He sadly died in a helicopter crash this morning while dedicating his time dousing fire at Cape Point, Cape Town.

    Marais, a former South African Air Force (SAAF) pilot, leaves behind his wife, Jacqui, and their children.

    We salute you!

    1. Thank you Bridgetti – it is a sad day. I think the intensity of the drama this week really drew us all together, and so even though we never met these heroes, we really feel this loss on such a personal level.

  4. So very sad. It’s always heartbreaking to lose a hero. That’s what Bees (and his fellow firefighters) are – 100%. RIP, Bees.

  5. Hi all, my name is Yoland O’Ryan and I’m the colleague in the pic next to M3. I would like to extend my condolences to all the family and friends of our late brother. We will never forget the efforts that were excecuted this pass week. I brace my chest and Salute you brother forever.

      1. Dave.

        No worries man, it’s part of our duty.
        Thanks for your kind words.

        Be safe!!!…

  6. Wow, moved to great sadness, pride, respect and admiration – thanks Dave!

    It’s amazing how we unite in this country over such events. How we come together when it really matters!! Screw everything else that happens from day-to-day when in a crunch we unite and save and embrace and love our fellow man.

    I read this amazing blog from a mom who says they aren’t heroes, not to downplay what these legends do but from a inner perspective. From that piece I got passion, the love of what they do, it’s a calling to save lives, to brace harsh and dangerous conditions for an inner reward!

    Driving yourself passed exhaustion, offering up holidays, your own family at times can only be done with great love for what you do, for your calling!! Many times without a second thought from most, because it’s not glamours and on national telly everyday what these souls do and how many lives they lives.

    In light of this, I’ve personally turned to calling them “mortally crafted angels”, legends…

    Rest In Peace to the departed!!
    Comfort, condolences and love to the family, friends and colleagues. Words could never express how grateful and thankful the people are whose lives you saved and touched beyond measure over this time!
    May we always remember what our legends do for us, mostly unseen, unthanked and unpraised..

    Jennifer Eaves, wrote a beautiful song dedicated to you legends. About the song she writes:
    “Living in Fish Hoek I witnessed the power of the Cape Town fires first hand. This Photo stood out to me and inspired the song ‘David and Goliath’. I dedicate this song to the all firemen who risked their lives to protect us. Thank You!”

    The image she refers, along with this amazing track can be found on her soundcloud account.

  7. My husband (Muis Van der Merwe) worked for Metro rescue for 40 years. He had the privilege on many an occasion to fly with Bees, he said he was an amzing pilot and was very saddend yesterday to hear of his passing. RIP

  8. Fantastic piece Dave.

    I’m very proud of my colleagues Yoland and Brophy. I wish I was there with you guys.

    My deepest condolences to my ex-colleague and friend Nazeem Davies’ (RIP), family and friends.

    Till we meet again Nazeem

  9. And then another two brave and fearless souls also became Angels due to their heli crash not too long ago. I really cannot bare to go outside when I hear the helis flying over our home. RIP fallen angels.

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