Malaysia: Navy helicopters collide mid-air, all 10 onboard killed

During a practice session for an upcoming parade, a tragic accident occurred involving two Malaysian navy helicopters which collided mid-air, resulting in the deaths of all 10 crew members. This incident took place at the Lumut naval base located in Perak, a western state of Malaysia, at around 9:32 AM local time on Tuesday, as confirmed by the navy through an official statement.

The statement further detailed that the deceased were immediately confirmed dead at the accident site and were subsequently transported to the military hospital at Lumut naval base for identification purposes. Local media coverage included a video depicting several helicopters flying in formation shortly before the collision, where it appears that the rotor of one helicopter struck another, leading to both helicopters crashing to the ground.

Authenticity of the footage was verified by local police, and the navy announced its plans to launch a thorough investigation to ascertain the cause of the catastrophic event. The aircraft involved were identified as a Eurocopter AS555SN Fennec, which carried three crew members, and an AW139 maritime operation helicopter, carrying seven individuals. The AW139 is manufactured by AgustaWestland, a division of the Italian defense company Leonardo, while the Fennec is produced by the European multinational defense corporation Airbus.

Reports from local media indicated that the AW139 came down in a sports complex within the naval base, whereas the Fennec crashed into an adjacent swimming pool. Photographs from the scene showed the severely damaged Fennec amidst the wreckage at the base’s stadium track, surrounded by emergency and rescue personnel.

The Defense Minister, Mohamed Khaled Nordin, informed that the helicopters were rehearsing for a parade intended to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Royal Malaysian Navy, scheduled for the following Saturday. He also mentioned that efforts to confirm the identities of the deceased crew members, all of whom were under the age of 40, were ongoing.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim expressed his deep condolences to the families of the victims, describing the event as a profound national tragedy. He assured that the Ministry of Defense, particularly the Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM), would promptly investigate to determine the factors leading to the accident.

Helicopter accidents are not particularly rare in Malaysia; for instance, a Malaysian coast guard helicopter experienced a crash in the Strait of Malacca last month, fortunately without fatalities. In another incident in 2016, a Eurocopter AS350 crash in the state of Sarawak resulted in the death of a deputy minister among others.

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