Malaysian envoy recalls fatal helicopter crash

Malaysian envoy recalls fatal helicopter crash
Pakistani residents light candles for the victims of the military helicopter crash.

ISLAMABAD - The Malaysian envoy who survived a helicopter crash that killed seven people, including his wife, saw the pilot killed instantly.

High Commissioner to Pakistan Datuk Dr Hasrul Sani Mujtabar, who is being treated at Gilgit Hospital in Pakistan, described how the journey had gone according to plan until they were due to land at their destination in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.

"After arriving at Gilgit airport everything went well except for the last few minutes when the helicopter went into a spiral and then hit the ground," Dr Hasrul Sani said.

"I saw that the pilot was dead. Some others also died instantly and I was in the middle.

"A few others managed to escape but the fire was very strong, with smoke quickly filling the helicopter," he said, speaking for the first time of the incident.

Hasrul's wife Datin Habibah Mahmud was killed in the crash.

The helicopter was carrying a delegation of ambassadors to inspect projects on a three-day trip to the region, where they were set to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Three envoys, including Dr Hasrul Hani, survived the incident.

Leif H. Larsen, the Norwegian envoy, and Philippine ambassador Domingo D. Lucenario Jr were killed along with the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors, the helicopter's two pilots and another crew member.

Dutch Ambassador Marcel de Vink said he felt "extremely lucky" to be alive after what he had witnessed.

He was described as having sustained burns to the leg and face by the foreign ministry.

"I remember we got into a spin and so thinking, I suppose I braced a little bit for impact... afterwards I was actually opening my eyes and seeing the smoke and explosions, so I was extremely lucky because it happened incredibly fast," de Vink said.

Indonesian ambassador Burhan Muhammad suffered 75 per cent burns and is in critical condition.

Bernama reported Malaysian Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan Aiyub Omar as saying DNA samples from Habibah's siblings were needed to identify her remains.

"This has been communicated to Wisma Putra for further action," the diplomat said.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told a press conference on Friday there were 19 people on board the helicopter, of whom 12 were rescued.

He added that its black box had been retrieved.

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