Pakistan on Saturday said the military helicopter which crashed in PoK, killing two envoys and five others had “suddenly lost control” due to ‘mechanical fault’ moments before landing, deepening the mystery as the bodies of the victims were brought to the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
“The Mi-17 was fully airworthy and its behaviour was normal just prior to landing and it suddenly lost control,” Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman told state television, dismissing as “bogus” claims by Taliban of having shot it down.
“It was purely an accident, and accidents do happen,” Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said. The Air Chief said: “Our base commander had eye contact with the helicopter and there was no problem in its behaviour. The helicopter lost control just moments before landing” due to a mechanical fault.
He added that a probe has been launched into the incident and there would be a detailed analysis of the crash. Aman added that the pilots flying the helicopter were “proficient and excellent” and had made several flights in the area.
Envoys of the Philippines and Norway and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors were among seven persons killed when the helicopter, carrying 12 foreigners, crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Gilgit-Baltistan area in the north.
Two army pilots and a Pakistani crew member were also killed in Friday’s crash. The bodies of the seven victims were brought from Gilgit, capital of Gilgit-Baltistan, in three helicopters to Nur Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi.
“This is a moment of grief. All the bodies have arrived. We are in touch with the embassies” of the dead foreigners, Chaudhry told Pakistan Television.
The chopper was ferrying 19 people to Naltar where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to address a ceremony but cancelled it following the mishap.
Pakistan has announced on Saturday as the day of mourning and national flag is flying at half mast.
Chaudhry said preparation were being made to shift the bodies to victims’ respective countries in next two to three days as their relatives were coming to Pakistan to receive them.
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