Helicopter Crash Deaths Now at Six

With the number of confirmed deaths in the Namibia Defence Force helicopter crash at Grootfontein last Friday now standing at six, the army is tight-lipped on the accident and has asked the police not to be involved, saying it is a military matter.

Four of the 10 people on board the helicopter en route to Windhoek died at the crash site, while two boys – one believed to be three and the other five years old – who were admitted at Katutura State Hospital succumbed to injuries later on Friday and Saturday.

One of those who died on the spot was the co-pilot, Eve Naufiku Nghimwenavali, and three passengers. The boys were children of soldiers and were visiting relatives in Windhoek.

Army sources said the survivors are in a critical condition with a technician believed to have lost a leg, while the pilot is said to have sustained second or even third degree burns.

The defence ministry did not release any other information at the weekend apart from confirming the crash on Friday.

Defence minister Nahas Angula yesterday told The Namibian that the incident is being investigated by experts and that the ministry will communicate developments in due time.

“We are mourning our colleagues who passed away in the tragic accident and we are praying for those in hospital to recover soon. Experts are busy with the investigations,” he said.

Defence permanent secretary Petrus Shivute said he could not reveal any further information until all the deceased’s next of kin have been notified and that an updated media statement will be released today.

When The Namibian visited Katutura State Hospital over the weekend, security was tight and members of the public were not allowed to visit the injured.

Otjozondjupa Region police spokesperson Maureen Mbeha said although there were civilians on board the helicopter, the ministry said families sign indemnity forms and that the police were requested to wait for a statement on the incident to be released.

“They requested us to be patient. They will issue a statement,” Mbeha said.

The Chinese-made H425Z9 helicopters crashed just after take-off for Windhoek to pick up defence minister Nahas Angula who was scheduled to officiate at an NDF technicians’ graduation ceremony at Grootfontein.

This is the second accident involving a Namibian Defence Force aircraft and the third plane crash in Namibia within four months after the one that killed One Africa Television founder Paul van Schalkwyk early March near Etosha. In November last year, an NDF plane was damaged after performing an emergency landing near the Mozambique plane crash site in Bwabwata National Park.The Ministry of Works and Transport is also not officially involved in the investigation, sources said.

An NDF quarterly journal dated January to March 2012 shows that the H425Z9 helicopter that crashed on Friday is one of two that were supplied by the Chinese company Polytechnology Inc and were commissioned by the then defence minister Charles Namoloh.

Source : The Namibian