Bodies of diplomats killed in Pakistan crash reach capital

AP News
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Posted: May 09, 2015 1:22 PM
Bodies of diplomats killed in Pakistan crash reach capital

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The bodies of several foreign dignitaries killed in a Pakistani helicopter crash, including ambassadors from the Philippines and Norway and the wives of the ambassadors from Malaysia and Indonesia, arrived a military base Saturday near the capital, Islamabad.

State-run Pakistan Television showed Pakistani officials and the country's army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif saluting the flag-draped coffins of the four foreigners, as well as the three Pakistani crew members killed in Friday's crash. Twelve people injured in the crash also arrived at the base in a C-130 plane.

The helicopter, transporting dignitaries to a ceremony at a ski resort, crashed and caught fire as it was landing. Some of the survivors described their ordeal from their hospital beds, as a routine flight turned deadly in the final moments.

Hasrul Sani Mujtabar, the High Commissioner of the Malaysian Embassy, told state media that "everything went well except for the last few minutes."

As it was approaching the landing pad, the helicopter suddenly went into a spiral.

"Then it hit the ground. I saw the pilot was killed and some others died instantly," he said. "I managed to crawl to front seat of the pilot and I broke the window and I managed to throw myself out."

Mujtabar received burns on his face and neck, and praised the doctors who treated him.

Another survivor, a Pakistani army officer identified on television only as Maj. Kamran, said the crash briefly knocked him senseless. When he awoke, he tried to save as many passengers as he could.

"The helicopter had caught fire and the fire was coming toward us," he said, adding that one of dead pilots was his former class-mate.

Pakistan says a technical failure caused the crash. The Pakistani Talban issued a statement claiming they had shot down the helicopter with an anti-aircraft missile, something the government later dismissed as an opportunistic attempt to take responsibility for such a high-profile incident.

Pakistan declared Saturday a day of national mourning.

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry told Pakistan Television the bodies of the foreigners would be flown to their home countries within the next three days, as many family members of the dead were coming to Pakistan to escort the bodies.

"This is a moment of grief. All the bodies have arrived. We are in touch with the embassies" of the victims, Chaudhry said.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday called the Malaysian and Norwegian prime ministers to express his condolences, according to a statement from his office.