State funerals for Afghan copter crash soldiers
19 August 2005, MADRID — State funerals are to be held for 17 Spanish soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
19 August 2005
MADRID — State funerals are to be held for 17 Spanish soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
King Juan Carlos of Spain and his son, Crown Prince Felipe, and Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero were to attend the funerals planned for Saturday.
The bodies, which have been identified, were flown back to Madrid on Thursday.
Meanwhile, realtives of the dead soldiers have said they are satisfied their loved ones were correctly identified, defence sources said.
It follows a mix-up with the bodies of 62 soldiers who were killed in another plan crash on their way back from Afghanistan in 2003.
Zapatero had an emotional meeting with the families of the dead soldiers.
Spanish investigators, who travelled to the scene of the tragedy, believe strong gusts of wind caused the helicopter crash on Tuesday.
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.
The Spanish daily 'Voz de Galicia' claimed another soldier in the second helicopter which made a crash landing confirmed both aircraft had come under attack.
Bono said on Tuesday that 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 have 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.
Amid a recent rise in Taliban attacks on Nato troops, Bono said: "It has absolutely not been ruled out that it might have been an attack."
Bono said the pilot of one of the helicopters said he saw a plume of smoke - possibly caused by rocket fire - which came from a valley nearby the scene of the crash.
The pilot decided to crash land, causing slight injuries to four crew and more serious injuries to another soldier.
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