A NATO helicopter crash in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of five of its personnel. There were ten on board, and the others miraculously escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.
NATO officials have confirmed that a helicopter carrying its personnel crashed while attempting to land, killing five, while injuring five others. The helicopter, a Puma Mk2, was coming in to land at NATO’s training and support mission HQ in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO has identified those who died in the crash, but refused to reveal their identity and asked for a grace period before their names would be released, reported the BBC.
While the Defense Secretary Michael Fallon expressed his “deepest sympathies,” a Ministry of Defense spokesman confirmed that the crash was “an accident and not the result of insurgent activity.” In other words, the helicopter crashed without being fired upon. There have been several instances wherein military vehicles and helicopters have come under fire from ground-based insurgents in the recent past. However, this crash has been determined to be caused by “non-hostile” forces. The helicopter belonged to NATO’s Resolute Support mission, confirmed a statement from the agency.
“The coalition aircraft crashed with 10 people on board. The incident resulted in the death of five Resolute Support personnel and the injury of five others. It is Resolute Support policy to defer casualty identification to the relevant national authority. The incident is currently under investigation.”
The spokesperson added that the families of the victims have been informed and it is they who have requested for a grace period before the names of those who perished are released. Incidentally, of those killed in the crash in Afghanistan, two belong to the British Royal Air Force (RAF). They have been identified by the Ministry of Defense as Flight Lieutenant Geraint Roberts and Flight Lieutenant Alan Scott, reported the Telegraph.
While an investigation has been ordered, a few eye-witnesses indicated that there didn’t seem anything wrong with the helicopter, but it crashed because of a blimp. Apparently, a surveillance blimp appeared to suddenly veer into the helicopter’s path as it was about to land. The witness added that helicopter got snared with a cable that was tethered to the surveillance blimp, resulting in the helicopter crash-landing.
An Afghan security guard who witnessed the crash corroborated to the fact that the helicopter had, indeed, struck the tethering cable of the blimp. He added that immediately after the helicopter got snared, black smoke started emerging, and then it went down. Another helicopter circled the area a few times and landed safely, said the guard, reported Fox News.
Reports indicate the blimp was actually a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is sent up in the air, but always remains tethered to the ground. The balloon has advanced long-range surveillance equipment fitted on a platform dangling at the bottom. These balloons can stay in the upper atmosphere for a few weeks, gathering intelligence, and need to be brought down due to bad weather. The tethers that are used to keep the balloon from floating away are very strong and can easily cause damage to an aerial vehicle straying in its path.
Owing to the relatively low flying altitude of the helicopter, five of the ten passengers managed to escape with only injuries. The crashed helicopter caught fire, and it is believed the remaining five passengers may have been trapped in the inferno and died.
The RAF helicopter was being manned by a three man crew and was carrying seven NATO personnel when the unfortunate incident happened. Among those killed were two American, and one French, passengers. The two RAF personnel who died weren’t part of the crew that manned the helicopter. All the crew members of the helicopter and two others managed to escape.
[Image Credit | Sgt. Ronald Sellinger / Getty Images, Apringstone via Airforce-Technology]