Two foreign ambassadors among seven dead in Pakistani army helicopter crash

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Pakistani soldiers stand guard outside a military hospital where victims of a helicopter crash were brought for treatment in Gilgit on Friday.
FARMAN KARIM/AFP/GETTY IMAGES Pakistani soldiers stand guard outside a military hospital where victims of a helicopter crash were brought for treatment in Gilgit on Friday.

A Pakistani army helicopter carrying foreign dignitaries crashed Friday, killing the ambassadors from the Philippines and Norway and five others, Pakistan’s military said.

STILL IMAGE TAKEN FROM VIDEO
AP A Pakistani army helicopter crashed into an empty school Friday.

The dead from the crash in northern Pakistan also included the wives of ambassadors from Malaysia and Indonesia, the chopper’s two army pilots and a crew member. The chopper reportedly crashed into an empty school in the town  of Naltar.

The Pakistani Army said the crash was a result of an emergency landing, but the Pakistani Talban claimed its fighters shot down the aircraft. The Taliban’s claim was further refuted by local officials, who said the chopper experienced a technical problem shortly before landing and that three other helicopters flying along with it touched down safely.Pakistani soldiers gather beside an army helicopter at a military hospital where victims of the crash were brought for treatment.

Seventeen people — 11 foreigners and six Pakistanis — were on board the MI-17, part of a contingent of 60 people, half of whom were diplomats, bound for a pleasure trip, according to local media.

The Dutch and Polish ambassadors were among the survivors. As a group, the survivors suffered “varying degree of injuries,” the army’s spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, said.

Domingo D. Lucenario, Jr., the Filippino ambassador to Pakistan, was among the dead.Leif H. Larsen, the Norwegian ambassador to Pakistan, was also killed in the crash.

Norwegian Ambassador to Pakistan Leif H. Larsen (l.) and Ambassador of Philippines Domingo D Lucenario Jr. (r.)  were reportedly killed in the crash.

 

Romania’s ambassador to Pakistan, Emilian Ion, was another survivor, Romanian officials said.

The deaths of Filippino ambassador Domingo Lucenario Jr. and Norwegian ambassador Leif H. Larsen were confirmed by their respective countries, Bloomberg News reported.

No American Embassy staffers were on the helicopter, according to Pope Thrower, assistant spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

The helicopter was one of four ferrying diplomats to the city of Gilgit to attend a public ceremony for the opening of a newly installed chair-lift at a ski resort.

 The helicopter that crashed experienced a problem with its rotor as it was descending, Tahir Hussain, chief secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan, told Bloomberg. He said the chopper was about 80 feet above the ground when the problem arose.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took his personal government plane to the ceremony.

Sharif, in a statement, expressed “deep grief and sorrow over the tragic incident” and said he “extended heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives in this incident.”

Source: NY Daily News

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