RAWALPINDI: The Ambassadors of Philippines (H.E. Domingo D. Lucenario Jr) and Norway (H.E. Leif Larsen) were among at least seven people killed when a MI-17 helicopter crashed in Naltar Valley, Gilgit, ISPR said on Friday.
DG ISPR Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa tweeted that the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian Ambassadors were also killed in the crash.
Two pilots and a crew member were martyred. The pilots were identified as Major Altamish and Major Faisal.
The injured include the Polish, Dutch, Romanian, Lebanese Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Malaysia and Indonesia. The wife of the Polish Ambassador is also injured.
The foreign diplomats were scheduled to attend the inauguration of a chairlift project for tourists in Gilgit.
According to the ISPR one MI-17 out of three carrying visitors had crash landed in Naltar Valley. There were 11 foreigners and six Pakistani passengers on board.
’Besides technical fault, other angles to be examined in Gilgit helicopter crash’
Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry has said that the helicopter crash was caused due to a ‘technical fault’. However, other possible causes would be fully examined during the probe, he added.
He expressed possibility of shifting bodies and injured by tomorrow.
“We are making arrangements to send the bodies of the diplomats to their countries with full honour,” Chaudhry told PTV.
Army chief grieved over ‘tragic loss of lives’
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has expressed his ‘deepest grief over tragic loss of precious lives of Major Altamash, Major Faisal, Naib Subedar Zakir and foreign diplomats and their families’ in a helicopter crash at Naltar near Gilgit.
According to ISPR, the army chief said, “it is a sad day for all of us and our heart goes out to the bereaved families at this sad moment of their life”.
Norway expresses ‘great sadness’
Norway expressed "great sadness" over the death of its ambassador to Pakistan in a helicopter crash claimed by the Taliban.
Leif Larsen, 61, was "one of our best and most experienced diplomats" who was "very respected by his colleagues," Foreign Minister Borge Brende told reporters, adding that his Pakistani counterpart had told him the causes of the crash "could not be fully explained yet."
"This will be investigated," and the Pakistani authorities have already "established an investigation committee," Brende said.
Larsen, married and the father of one, had been stationed in Islamabad since 2014. – AFP
Crash due to technical fault: Defence Minister
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said initial reports pointed towards technical failure being the result of the crash. Defence Minister Asif stressed that there was no indication that the accident was caused by any reason other than technical failure.
Security sources said initial investigations had revealed that the crash was caused by a failure in the tail rotor of the helicopter. The helicopter lost control and the hit the roof of a local school in the area. Following the crash the helicopter caught fire.
FO forms crisis management cell
The Foreign Office said 30 Ambassadors and their wives had been taken on a C-130 to Gilgit. The diplomats were being taken to the Naltar Valley in the MI-17 helicopters.
According to the Foreign Office the helicopter which crashed had 17 passengers on board.
The Foreign Office has also established a crisis management cell to hanlde matters related to the crash.
PM announces day of mourning
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced a day of mourning following the horrific crash in Gilgit.
Earlier, a statement by PM House said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s trip to Naltar Valley had been cancelled after the Gilgit accident.
The statement went on to say that his plane was turned back without landing.
The PM has expressed his condolence over the loss of lives in the accident and has directed for immediate medical services to the injured.