Saturday, 16 May 2015

All 8 bodies of US Helicopter crash in Nepal recovered

Nepal's army says the bodies of all eight people on board a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that crashed Tuesday have been recovered.

Officials said Saturday teams from the U.S. military and Nepal's army are at the scene of the crash, investigating what may have caused the aircraft to go down in a rugged, mountainous area.

Neither the cause of the crash nor the identities of the eight people aboard the craft have been disclosed. Lieutenant-General John Wissler confirmed Friday that the helicopter was carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers.

The general, a senior commander of Marines based in Japan, noted the enormous loss of life Nepal has suffered during the past three weeks, from the strongest earthquake in the Himalayas in more than 80 years and many aftershocks, including another strong and damaging earthquake this week.

The Defense Ministry in Kathmandu announced the helicopter went down three days ago in a mountainous area of east-central Nepal and said it was not possible for anyone onboard to have survived.

U.S. officials they are assessing the details of the crash of the UH-1Y Huey helicopter, which was part of an American task force in Nepal dubbed Operation Sahayogi Haat (Helping Hand).

The wreckage was found by a Nepalese search team about 8 miles north of Charikot, the military said in a statement.

The Pentagon said that the families of the Marines had been notified and that the names of the crew members would be released within 24 hours.

“They were courageous, they were selfless individuals dedicated to the international rescue mission here in Nepal,” Marine Lt. Gen. John Wissler said.

The Huey went missing while it was distributing aid on Tuesday, the day a strong aftershock hit Nepal and killed more than 100 people and after the crew was heard over the radio saying the aircraft was experiencing a fuel problem.

The Huey, a helicopter dating back to the Vietnam War era, was completely destroyed, Nepal's top defence ministry official said.

After a three-day search the Huey was spotted near the village of Ghorthali at an altitude of 11,200 ft (3,400 m), an army general told Reuters, as helicopters and Nepali ground troops converged on the crash site.

Air Force search and rescue crew identified the crash site in a rugged forest at 11,000 feet elevation, but couldn’t stay on the scene because of high wind and inclement weather.

The area's tallest peak soars to more than 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Hillsides are cloaked with forest that made it hard to find the helicopter even though it came down just a few miles from Charikot, the capital of Dolakha district, half a day's drive to the east of Kathmandu.

An army base in the town has been serving as a hub for operations to airlift and treat those injured in the two earthquakes, and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala flew in on Thursday for an on-the-spot briefing.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter thanked the Nepalese and Indian governments for their continued support in the search and recovery operations.

“This tragedy is a reminder of the vital but dangerous role that American service members play in delivering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he said. “Our mission continues in Nepal, and we remain dedicated to answering the call when disaster strikes, both in the Asia-Pacific and around the world.”

To verify that the broken, burned wreckage was that of the missing Huey, the U.S. sent in four Air Force pararescue specialists and a combat rescue officer. That verification was announced Friday morning.

No distress call was made before the Huey went missing while taking supplies to stranded villagers, but there may have been a transmission about a fuel problem, officials said.

The aircraft is attached to Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 based at Camp Pendleton.

The squadron was in the Philippines on a training mission when it was directed to Nepal to join the relief effort after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on April 25 that killed more than 8,300 people. On Tuesday, it was responding to a magnitude 7.3 aftershock that caused additional deaths and destruction.

The first quake, which struck on April 25 with a magnitude of 7.8, has killed 8,199 people. The death toll from a 7.3 aftershock on Tuesday has reached 117, with many victims in Dolakha.

Saturday 16 May 2015


Post a Comment