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South African pilot Laurie Kay dies

JOHANNESBURG -- Laurie Kay, a South African pilot best known for flying a Boeing 747 passenger jet low over a Johannesburg stadium before the final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, has died at the age of 67.

Kay had a suspected heart attack on Wednesday at the offices of the anti-rhinoceros-poaching unit in Kruger National Park, South Africa's showcase game reserve, according to the country's parks service. Kay flew helicopters on patrols aimed at stopping poachers and was also doing technical work on a new anti-poaching surveillance aircraft, said Ike Phaahla, a parks spokesman.

"He was a great aviator," Phaahla said. "He was a gentleman. He had this outgoing personality. He made you feel very easy around him." Kay was a South African Airways pilot when he swooped twice over Ellis Park stadium in a big jet at the start of the June 24, 1995, rugby final in which South Africa defeated New Zealand 15-12. The stenciled underside of the plane read "Good Luck Bokke" in a message of support for South Africa's national team, the Springboks.

One witness was Des Chetty, who was then a guard on the protective detail for F.W. de Klerk, the last president of the apartheid era that ended in 1994.

"It was a surreal feeling," Chetty wrote in an email. "One felt that if standing on the roof of the grandstands, you could have touched the belly of the plane. That's how close it felt."

The Boeing 747 was empty save for a small crew during the flyover, making it highly maneuverable despite its large size, noted Tony Smit, a longtime friend and pilot.

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