Civil, military leadership receive bodies of Gilgit crash victims at Nur Khan airbase

Published: May 9, 2015
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Army chief General Raheel Sharif comforts a relative of a diplomat who was injured in Gilgit helicopter crash. PHOTO: REUTERS

Army chief General Raheel Sharif comforts a relative of a diplomat who was injured in Gilgit helicopter crash. PHOTO: REUTERS

Army chief General Raheel Sharif comforts a relative of a diplomat who was injured in Gilgit helicopter crash. PHOTO: REUTERS PHOTO: REUTERS Army chief and air chief marshal present at Noor Khan Civil Base in Rawalpindi. PHOTO: REUTERS An Express News screengrab of the funeral

RAWALPINDI: Top civil and military leadership arrived on Saturday at the Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi to receive the bodies of the seven Mi-17 helicopter crash victims, Express News reported. 

On May 8, an army chopper crashed onto a school just before landing in the scenic Naltar Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), killing ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines among others.

Read: Technical glitch: Chopper crash kills two envoys, five others

Norwegian envoy Leif H Larsen, Philippines ambassador Domingo D Lucenario Jr, wives of Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors and two pilots were killed in the incident while Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananiczolish and Dutch ambassador Marcel de Vink sustained injuries. The Mi-17 helicopter crashed on a school, which officials said was closed at the time.

PHOTO: MAHA MUSADDAQ/ EXPRESS

Diplomats in black and the military’s top brass, including army chief General Raheel Sharif, were on hand and the commanders saluted as the coffins were carried by.

General Raheel put his arm around a sobbing boy among the diplomats.

Army chief General Raheel Sharif comforts a relative of a diplomat who was injured in the helicopter crash. PHOTO: REUTERS

“It’s a very sad moment and we are all very shaken,” Spanish ambassador Javier Carbajosa Sanchez told reporters.

He was on the trip but on another helicopter.

“Unfortunately, these things happen. Everything seems to indicate it was a terrible accident.”

Soldiers carry a coffin, wrapped in a Philippine flag of and containing the body of a helicopter crash victim. PHOTO: REUTERS

The delegation was on its way to inspect projects on a three-day trip to G-B where they were set to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, G-B’s commander FCNA Maj General Asim Munir, Inspector General of Police Zafar Iqbal, Secretary Home Sibtain Ahmed and Air vice Marshal were also present.

According to an official, at least 400 people were in attendance at the army helipad.

An Express News screengrab

Amid tight security, the injured were brought from Gligit to the airbase by C-130, while bodies were transported by army helicopters.

An Express News screengrab

“It was chopper number 3 that had the problem,” a foreign diplomat said.

The army officials formed a guard of honour to receive the
coffins, draped in national flags and bedecked with wreaths, as
soldiers carried them from the aircraft that brought them from
the north.

PHOTO: REUTERS

The national flag flew at half-mast as the nation observed a day of mourning following prime minister’s announcement yesterday (May 8).

Read: PM announces day of mourning following Gilgit crash

PM Nawaz called the Malaysian premier today and extended condolences over the death of Malaysian Ambassador’s wife in the helicopter crash.

Earlier, he had directed three cabinet ministers to accompany bodies of the envoys and spouses to their respective countries.

Abdul Qadir Baloch will be departing for Norway, Ahsan Iqbal to Malaysia and Indonesia while Khurram Dastgir Khan will be going to the Philippines, Radio Pakistan reported.

Read: Norway, Philippines ambassadors among 8 killed in Gilgit helicopter crash

The bodies would be taken on special flights as a gesture of respect and to show the importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with these countries.

PHOTO: MAHA MUSADDAQ/ EXPRESS

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his sorrow over the crash early morning today.

In a statement, he extended his condolences to the families of the crash victims and the government of Pakistan, the Philippines, Norway, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Pakistan Air Chief Marshal addresses media

Addressing the media following Friday’s incident, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman expressed sorrow and empathy over the lost lives in the crash.

He said that the helicopter that met the accident in Naltar went out of control before landing due to a technical fault.

He lauded the efforts of the pilots but was unable to comment on the behaviour of the pilots during the accident.

“The pilots were proficient and had flown several sorties in the area before. They were excellent pilots,” Aman said.

He added that, “a mechanical fault had occurred and they had no control, but tried their best.”

Expressing gratitude to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Air Force, he said that a joint effort was being played by all those involved in the tourism trip.

The marshal said that every effort was made by the rescue teams due to which, those injured were rescued and shifted to hospital.

He concluded that the international community expressed solidarity with Pakistan over Naltar tragedy, according to Radio Pakistan.

An Express News screengrab

 South African high commissioner recalls crash

Recalling the unfortunate crash, South African high commissioner addressing the media said, “The helicopter lost control all of a sudden and crashed.”

“It is a tragic incident which could have happened anywhere in the world,” he added.

Further, the high commissioner said he received minor injuries in the crash and for anyone to survive the crash is no less than a miracle.

Funeral prayers of pilots, technician offered

Funeral prayers of pilots and technician of Naltar helicopter crash were offered at Chaklala on Saturday, according to Radio Pakistan.

Army chief General Raheel Sharif and other top civil and military officials attended the funeral prayers.

Major Altamish Riaz, Major Faisal Wasim and Naib Subedar Zakir Ali were among eight killed in the crash.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Xman
    May 9, 2015 - 11:25AM

    It’s an embarrassing event for us as a nation that we were not able to take care of our guests. I just hope this time around, those who are responsible will be brought to task, and this incident would not be labelled, and brushed off as another “national tragedy”.Recommend

  • Umar Buttar
    May 9, 2015 - 12:55PM

    Xman it must be a embrassing event for you as an individual not for us as a nation. Actually it was a very unfortunate day to them and do not forget about our two brave pilots and their families too. Recommend

  • lkhan
    May 9, 2015 - 2:32PM

    @Xman: At a time like this to think of bringing people “responsible” to task is a bit much. In this case, there was technology failure according to the experts. We have lost lives of pilots, diplomats, wives. Have some respect for the families and use common sense before such accusations..Recommend

  • Ali
    May 9, 2015 - 3:51PM

    @Xman:

    Its not an ’embarrassment’ for the nation’ its a tragedy that could have happened anywhere, air crashes happen quite often especially in places with difficult terrain, even the polish president lost his life in a plane crash, this could have happened anywhere, the problem with Pakistanis and our critics is that we’re obsessed with honor, so whenever a tragedy like this occurs we believe we get ‘dishonored’ but in western countries they don’t believed in such concepts of honor or collective guilt.

    If stop making everything about ‘honor’ and collective guilt then a lot of things could improve.Recommend

  • Faizan
    May 9, 2015 - 3:54PM

    There’s nothing to be embarrassed about for an accident.
    It can happen anywhere to anyone.
    There were meant to go like this.Recommend

  • Zaida
    May 9, 2015 - 4:01PM

    Another National Tragedy.Recommend

  • imran
    May 9, 2015 - 6:20PM

    For those who are taking this incident to the otherside and don’t remember hardly anyone survived where helicopter was shot down vs accident. This crash has several survivors too.Recommend

  • Xman
    May 9, 2015 - 6:27PM

    @Umar, IKhan, Ali. It’s not about “honour” it’s about being realistic, and taking responsibility for your actions. Did anyone of you see the whole military command standing in line, and the expressions on their faces today, when the coffins were brought to the airbase? It certainly was a very awkward moment for me as being a proud Pakistani. I’m sick of the blunders that our governments keep on making, that could have been avoided just by a little foresight, and better concern about the consequences of the ill thought out actions. In the end whether we accept it or not, it does paint all Pakistanis in bad colours as irresponsible and non-serious people. There could have been a less risker, more wide reaching, high impact method to propagate the “soft” image of Pakistan, than what the PK gov was trying to do yesterday. Recommend

  • KafirMusafir
    May 9, 2015 - 7:15PM

    This is nothing but an unfortunate tragedy and an accident that could have happened anywhere in the world and much more likely in a mountainous terrain. Pakistan as a country and both the military and political leaders including the PM have shown tremendous respect and honor to not just those killed and injured but also to the countries they represented. Pakistan has turned this unfortunate tragedy to showcase their hospitality, sorrow, respect, and honor for which I laud the nation of Pakistan.Recommend

  • syed baqar ahsan
    May 9, 2015 - 7:59PM

    very unfortunate for our nation,it was good initiative to present our country returning out terrorism but as luck would it.Feel very sad for our foreign guests.Recommend

  • oBSERVER
    May 9, 2015 - 8:17PM

    @Xman:
    person like you is an embarrassment for any nation.Recommend

  • May 9, 2015 - 9:39PM

    A sad day and a very tragic accident.Recommend

  • Shafie Khan
    May 9, 2015 - 10:18PM

    @Xman, Those “Responsible” for this tragedy died in this accident. We are proud that they scarified their lives in service to our great country. It was an engine and braking system failure and nothing in that short period (less then 15 seconds) could have prevented this.
    I would suggest to you to “Man Up” and not be embarrassed but BE PROUD.
    Just because indians and TTP wanted this to happen doesn’t mean you have to bow your head down. Also i don’t understand why people recommended your post. Must be indians…..Recommend

  • Allah Rukha
    May 9, 2015 - 11:55PM

    Where is the civil leadership?Recommend

  • umii
    May 10, 2015 - 12:50AM

    Indians loves to write under pakistani news with pakistani names. Be carefullRecommend

  • May 10, 2015 - 11:11AM

    @Allah Rukha: Inna Lillahe WA Inna Ilaihe Rajeoon. Ameen.

    The civilian leadership is making alternate plans on how to practice walking and jogging REAL FAST. it will be best if they contact the producers of FLASH. SalamsRecommend

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