Turkey, military helicopter crashed

11 killed in military helicopter crash in Turkey

The helicopter crashed while flying over eastern Turkey. The deceased includes a high-ranking military commander.

At least 11 Turkish soldiers were killed, including a high-ranking military commander, and two others were injured after a Turkish army helicopter crashed in Bingöl province, eastern Turkey, the country’s Defence Ministry confirmed.

In a statement, it reported that the Cougar-type helicopter had cleared from Bingöl province at 13:55 local time (11:55 CET) and was heading to the Tatvan district in Bitlis province when radio contact was lost around 14:25 (12:25 CET). A search was immediately launched involving army personnel as well as a military drone, a helicopter and a CN-235 transport plane.

The ministry said that initially 9 soldiers were killed on the spot after the helicopter crashed, including the commander of the 8th Army Corps, Lieutenant General Osman Erbaş, and four more wounded were taken to hospital. However, hours later two other soldiers succumbed to their injuries, raising the total death toll to 11.

Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Chief of Staff Yaşar Güler and Land Forces Commander Ümit Dündar left Ankara for the crash site to monitor operations, Turkish media reported.

Local population rushed to help the victims

A resident of a village near the place where the helicopter crashed explained to the Anatolia agency that the inhabitants of the area rushed to the scene of the accident as soon as they heard the news. “Our children told us that a helicopter had crashed nearby. When I arrived at the scene, we saw some soldiers who had died,” explained Davut Bikeç, who pulled out with his own hands one of the wounded soldiers trapped between the snow and the wreckage of the aircraft.

“His mouth was full of snow. I retired the snow and helped him breathe, and asked if he was okay. Then I scooped the snow around him with my hands and helped him break free. He told me that he was fine, but I asked him to lie down in case he had a fracture,” the man explained, adding that he and other people in the area later helped another of the injured.

Condolence messages

Several messages of condolence arrived immediately after the news; the US embassy in Ankara expressed its condolences to the families of the deceased and injured, while Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, head of the EU delegation in Turkey, also offered his condolences for the victims in a statement.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also phoned Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, as did NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who contacted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to convey his condolences.

With this, there are now four accidents and 39 victims – including two high-ranking Turkish commanders – in which a Cougar helicopter, a Franco-German model that entered the Turkish Armed Forces in 1996, has been involved. Turkish has 50 helicopters of this type, 20 of which were bought from France and the rest built in Turkey. The last Cougar helicopter accident took place in 2017.