Cause of helicopter tragedy 'may never be known'
23 August 2005, MADRID — The head of the Spanish military peacekeeping mission to Afghanistan admits the cause of the helicopter crash which killed 17 soldiers may never be known.
23 August 2005
MADRID — The head of the Spanish military peacekeeping mission to Afghanistan admits the cause of the helicopter crash which killed 17 soldiers may never be known.
In an interview with the Spanish daily, El Mundo, Colonel Miguel Moreno Álvarez said: "We may never know exactly what happened."
He did, however, discount the theory that both helicopters had been attacked.
Spanish investigators, who travelled to the scene of the tragedy, believe strong gusts of wind caused the helicopter crash last week.
Defence minister Jose Bono said this was the most likely hypothesis for the crash near the western Afghan city of Herat.
Despite indications that strong winds could be to blame, Bono told the prime minister that other possible causes could not be ruled out, including that of an attack on the aircraft.
Bono initially said he could not discount claims by a Taleban commander that the aircraft had been attacked.
Other military sources from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force blamed mechanical error or said it was an accident.
The two Cougar helicopters crashed near the city of Herat, in western Afghanistan.
One helicopter crashed south of Herat, while another made a forced landing.
Other Nato forces in the area launched a rescue mission and a number of injured soldiers were taken to hospital.
Both helicopters were carrying out a training exercise ahead of Afghan parliamentary elections next month.
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