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June 1, 2002 | 1740 IST

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Hansie Cronje killed
in plane crash

Former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje was killed in a plane which crashed in the country's Western Cape province on Saturday, the country's Sports Ministry said.

"He (Cronje) was killed. We can confirm that," Graham Abrahams, a spokesman for the Sports Ministry, said.

Hansie CronjeCronje, 32, was banned from professional cricket for life in October 2000 for his role in a match-fixing scandal.

He was banned after admitting he had accepted around $130,000 from bookmakers to influence the course of matches.

The disgraced cricketer's brother Frans Cronje earlier said the plane had crashed in bad weather.

"Yes, it's true. It was raining and they crashed into the side of a mountain," said Frans Cronje, who was speaking before the Sport Ministry's statement confirming the death.

The South African Press Association quoted doctors at the crash site as saying the two others on board the plane had also died. Their identities were not immediately known.

Two other people were on board the Hawker Siddley 748 cargo plane when it took off from Bloemfontein at 5 a.m. local (0300 GMT), Trevor Davids, spokesman for South African Civil Aviation Authority, said.

Davids said the plane crashed in the mountains near George, a town near the coast, some 350 km east of Cape Town.

Officials from the United Cricket Board of South Africa spoke of their great sadness at Cronje's death.

"Hansie was an excellent cricketer and a very popular and successful captain, who led his team to some great achievements and who gave much to cricket in this country during his career," the board's president Percy Sonn said:


England all-rounder Ian Botham, who played against Cronje in the 1992 World Cup, said Cronje should be remembered for positive reasons as well as the match-fixing scandal.

"It's a sad time. Sadly people will forget all the good things he did and remember him for all the wrong reasons," said Botham, speaking on Sky Sports television.

James Whittaker, who was captain of Leicestershire during Cronje's season in English county cricket in 1995, said: "He was a great example to other professionals at Leicestershire, he committed himself to the club both off the field and with his input on the field," he told Sky.

"I hope he will be remembered for his inventiveness on the pitch and his cricket ability."

Kepler Wessels, Cronje's predecessor as South African captain, said: "I saw Hansie last week and he had clearly reached a point where he wanted to build a new life for himself. He was intent on putting everything that happened behind him and he wanted to find a niche outside cricket," Wessels said.

Cronje made his Test debut in 1992 against West Indies and was appointed South African captain two years later in a home series against New Zealand.

In 1996, he led South Africa to 1-0 home victory against England in their first five-Test series since returning to world cricket after apartheid.

But the star's meteoric rise came to an abrupt halt in April 2000 when Indian police charged him with match fixing after a one-day series in March.

He told a commission investigating the allegations: "I tried to live a Christian life and walk the way the Lord wanted me to walk...I allowed Satan and the world to dictate terms to me."

He admitted accepting about $130,000 from bookmakers over a four-year period but denied ever throwing a match.

Hansie Cronje factfile

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