Calm Nahas escapes deadly chopper crash
Defence Minister Nahas Angula was seemingly calm despite confirmation that the Air Force helicopter that crashed at Grootfontein on Friday morning was scheduled to fly him to a graduation ceremony at the military aviation centre in Grootfontein.
The helicopter, which was on official flight to Windhoek, crashed on the runway shortly after lift-off at 05:05, killing five of its occupants.
It was flying to Windhoek to pick up Angula, who was slated to officiate at the graduation ceremony in Grootfontein.
The graduation was unceremoniously cancelled after the deadly incident.
Speaking to Namibian Sun hours after the crash on Friday, a sad but collected Angula said: “It does not really matter who the helicopter was coming to pick up, but it was on an official mission.”
Describing the tragedy, Angula said the helicopter burst into flames and some people burnt beyond recognition.
By yesterday afternoon the official death toll stood at five, with an unconfirmed number of seriously injured survivors being treated in a Windhoek hospital.
“We have cancelled the graduation ceremony until further notice,” the minister said.
“We have a military aviation centre there ...training them in aircraft maintenance and the like. I was supposed to be the keynote speaker but we have cancelled it until further notice,” Angula said.
It is alleged there were civilians in the helicopter including children, one of whom was killed.
When asked what children were doing on board a military helicopter, he replied: “Ask the air force commander, I do not know what they were detailed to do in Windhoek.”
He could also not say how many of the five deceased were employed by the Ministry of Defence.
According to a Ministry of Defence press release issued on Friday, there were two pilots and eight passengers on board.
Angula said they will follow up the matter today and see how those in hospital are doing.
He further said they were informing the relatives of those who died in the crash. “We expect the relatives to come to us this week so that we can make funeral arrangements,” said the minister.
He said investigations are under way to determine the cause of the accident. This would take some time and they would make the information public once investigation is complete, Angula assured.
Ministry of Defence spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Monica Sheya could not indicate how many of the deceased were employed by the ministry.
Sheya said information would be made available today after confirming that the next of kin had been informed.