Civil-military leadership receive bodies of Gilgit crash victims at Nur Khan airbase

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RAWALPINDI: Top civil and military leadership arrived on Saturday at the Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi to receive the bodies of the seven Mi-17 helicopter crash victims, Express News reported. 

On May 8, an army chopper crashed onto a school just before landing in the scenic Naltar Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), killing ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines among others.

Read: Technical glitch: Chopper crash kills two envoys, five others

Norwegian envoy Leif H Larsen, Philippines ambassador Domingo D Lucenario Jr, wives of Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors and two pilots were killed in the incident while Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananiczolish and Dutch ambassador Marcel de Vink sustained injuries. The Mi-17 helicopter crashed on a school, which officials said was closed at the time.

PHOTO: MAHA MUSADDAQ/ EXPRESS

Diplomats in black and the military’s top brass, including army chief General Raheel Sharif, were on hand and the commanders saluted as the coffins were carried by.

General Raheel put his arm around a sobbing boy among the diplomats.

Army chief General Raheel Sharif comforts a relative of a diplomat who was injured in a helicopter crash. PHOTO: REUTERS

“It’s a very sad moment and we are all very shaken,” Spanish ambassador Javier Carbajosa Sanchez told reporters.

He was on the trip but on another helicopter.

“Unfortunately, these things happen. Everything seems to indicate it was a terrible accident.”

Soldiers carry a coffin, wrapped in a Philippine flag of and containing the body of a helicopter crash victim. PHOTO: REUTERS

The delegation was on its way to inspect projects on a three-day trip to G-B where they were set to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, G-B’s commander FCNA Maj General Asim Munir, Inspector General of Police Zafar Iqbal, Secretary Home Sibtain Ahmed and Air vice Marshal were also present.

According to an official, at least 400 people were in attendance at the army helipad.

An Express News screengrab

Amid tight security, the injured were brought from Gligit to the airbase by C-130, while bodies were transported by army helicopters.

An Express News screengrab

“It was chopper number 3 that had the problem,” a foreign diplomat said.

The army officials formed a guard of honour to receive the
coffins, draped in national flags and bedecked with wreaths, as
soldiers carried them from the aircraft that brought them from
the north.

PHOTO: REUTERS

The national flag flew at half-mast as the nation observed a day of mourning following prime minister’s announcement yesterday (May 8).

Read: PM announces day of mourning following Gilgit crash

PM Nawaz called the Malaysian premier today and extended condolences over the death of Malaysian Ambassador’s wife in the helicopter crash.

Earlier, he had directed three cabinet ministers to accompany bodies of the envoys and spouses to their respective countries.

Abdul Qadir Baloch will be departing for Norway, Ahsan Iqbal to Malaysia and Indonesia while Khurram Dastgir Khan will be going to the Philippines, Radio Pakistan reported.

Read: Norway, Philippines ambassadors among 8 killed in Gilgit helicopter crash

The bodies would be taken on special flights as a gesture of respect and to show the importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with these countries.

PHOTO: MAHA MUSADDAQ/ EXPRESS

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his sorrow over the crash early morning today.

In a statement, he extended his condolences to the families of the crash victims and the government of Pakistan, the Philippines, Norway, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Pakistan Air Chief Marshal addresses media

Addressing the media following Friday’s incident, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman expressed sorrow and empathy over the lost lives in the crash.

He said that the helicopter that met the accident in Naltar went out of control before landing due to a technical fault.

He lauded the efforts of the pilots but was unable to comment on the behaviour of the pilots during the accident.

“The pilots were proficient and had flown several sorties in the area before. They were excellent pilots,” Aman said.

He added that, “a mechanical fault had occurred and they had no control, but tried their best.”

Expressing gratitude to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Air Force, he said that a joint effort was being played by all those involved in the tourism trip.

The marshal said that every effort was made by the rescue teams due to which, those injured were rescued and shifted to hospital.

He concluded that the international community expressed solidarity with Pakistan over Naltar tragedy, according to Radio Pakistan.

An Express News screengrab

 South African high commissioner recalls crash

Recalling the unfortunate crash, South African high commissioner addressing the media said, “The helicopter lost control all of a sudden and crashed.”

“It is a tragic incident which could have happened anywhere in the world,” he added.

Further, the high commissioner said he received minor injuries in the crash and for anyone to survive the crash is no less than a miracle.

Funeral prayers of pilots, technician offered

Funeral prayers of pilots and technician of Naltar helicopter crash were offered at Army helipad in Gilgit on Saturday, according to Radio Pakistan.

Caretaker Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Sher Jehan Mir and other top civil and military officials attended the funeral prayers.

Major Altamish Riaz, Major Faisal Wasim and Naib Subedar Zakir Ali were among eight killed in the crash.

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