Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blaine County pilot killed in Africa

Crash also claims life of DR Congo’s presidential advisor


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Marcus De La Poer Beresford

A Blaine County man was one of two American pilots killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a plane crash Sunday that claimed the life of one of that nation's top presidential advisors.

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, the capital of the central African nation, confirmed Tuesday that Marcus De La Poer Beresford, 54, who lived in the Bellevue area, was one of the pilots killed. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Mark Dillard identified the other pilot as Geoffrey Wiener, but no age or address for Wiener were immediately available.

Beresford and Wiener were the pilots of a Gulfstream jet that crashed Sunday afternoon when the aircraft overshot a runway near the eastern DR Congo town of Bukavu, killing Augustin Katumba Mwanke, identified by New Vision, a government-owned daily newspaper in nearby Uganda, as DR Congo President Joseph Kabila's chief advisor.

New Vision reported that two farmers were also killed by debris from the crash, while two other DR Congo officials were badly injured.

Hermione Watkinson, Beresford's half-sister who lives in Hailey, told the Idaho Mountain Express that her brother was co-pilot of the aircraft and that he had been flying for government officials in DR Congo for about the past year.

Watkinson said she was contacted about her brother's death on Sunday by the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, which was able to identify Beresford and Wiener by their passports.

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According to NYCAviation, an aerospace news and resource organization, weather conditions in the area were good, and the cause of the accident was not immediately known. But the organization's website stated that some officials said the plane landed halfway down the runway and as a result was unable to stop in time. The website reported that an airport official said the pilot possibly miscalculated the length of the runway.

A longtime career professional pilot, Beresford had previously been employed in the Wood River Valley. Watkinson said her brother took a job in the DR Congo because of unavailability of work in Idaho. Within the past few years, he had also piloted aircraft out of Managua, Nicaragua, and Phoenix, Ariz.

Originally from England, Beresford and Watkinson became U.S. citizens after settling in this country. Watkinson said Beresford moved to the Wood River Valley in 1966, while she came here in 1988.

"His passion was flying," Watkinson said. "His father was an RAF pilot during the war and he got the flying bug from him."

Watkinson said Beresford, who had a home in Muldoon Canyon east of Bellevue, was also passionate about living in the Wood River Valley.

"He loved living here and he missed his home when he had to go abroad," she said.

Beresford was also a musician, having played with a local band called Ovio in the 1980s. Watkinson said Beresford was self-taught on the organ and keyboard and basically played just for fun.

Watkinson said services will be scheduled in the valley in the future after her brother's ashes are returned to the United States.

She said she already misses him.

"I was very close to him." Watkinson said.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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