Afghan helicopter crash was an accident: Bono
24 August 2005, MADRID — The Spanish defence minister José Bono told the country's parliament the helicopter crash in which 17 soldiers were killed in Afghanistan was an accident.
24 August 2005
MADRID — The Spanish defence minister José Bono told the country's parliament the helicopter crash in which 17 soldiers were killed in Afghanistan was an accident.
Bono was giving an account of the circumstances surrounding the helicopter crash in which the 17 were killed.
One Cougar helicopter crashed and exploded, killing all the soldiers inside.
A second helicopter crash-landed nearby injuring one soldier.
The crash happened while they were on a training exercise near the western city of Herat on 16 August.
Spain has 800 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of a Nato peacekeeping force.
In an emotional address, Bono said he had lived through this tragedy "minute by minute".
He paid homage to the 17 soldiers, reading out their names before parliament.
Bono said the crash was not caused by enemy attack from the Taleban, as had been claimed by a local commander afterwards.
Instead, he said it was thought one helicopter had crashed as a result of an accident.
According to an initial report, both aircraft were flying at low level in a flat area of land.
Bono he said the idea that the helicopter hit the ground was unlikely.
He justified the low-level flying because he said it was a tactical exercise.
He discounted the possibility the helicopter had been shot down, saying there was no evidence of gunfire, despite the testimony of one Spanish soldier in the second helicopter who claimed he had heard shooting.
Bono said: "Even though this is remote, it will be investigated further."
Earlier, he said Spanish soldiers were in Afghanistan to "fight against terrorism and promote liberty, progress and democracy".
The crash is the second air disaster for Spanish troops in Afghanistan.
In May 2003, 62 peacekeepers died in a plane crash in Turkey when returning from Afghanistan.
The tragedy turned into a scandal when it was revealed that the bodies of 30 soldiers were mixed up as pathologists rushed to complete post-mortems.
The Spanish government later admitted it rented an ageing ex-Soviet military aircraft which had a number of faults to save EUR 6,000.
Zapatero interrupted his holiday in Lanzarote to fly to Madrid to deal with the crisis.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news