KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The families of five Nepalese civilians killed in a U.S. military helicopter crash on an earthquake relief mission last month demanded compensation Monday, saying it took weeks to get confirmation of their relatives' deaths.
Authorities initially said six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers were on the UH-1 "Huey" chopper that crashed May 12 in Nepal's northeastern mountains. The wreckage was found after days of intense searching.
After DNA tests and further investigation by both countries, Nepal's army announced Friday that five more people were on board, local villagers being transported to a hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the devastating April earthquake that killed thousands.
The remains of the villagers were flown back to Nepal on Sunday and were being stored at Tribhuwan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, where relatives of the civilian victims gathered Monday.
"We are demanding the United States provide money as compensation or insurance to the families of those killed in the helicopter crash," said Purna Bahadur Khatri whose brother Shiva Bahadur was killed in the crash.
Khatri said they will not take the remains for cremation until the issue was resolved, and if necessary protest outside the U.S. Embassy.
"It took weeks for the authorities to even admit that our missing family members were killed in the crash. We have not had any contract from the U.S. government or our government or if we are going to get compensation," Khatri said.
Amir Katwal, who lost his father in the crash, said he loaded his father and other people injured in the earthquake in the helicopter, which appeared to be overloaded.
"Two soldiers got off and loaded the people, and they all got inside the helicopter that had no seats and was crowded. I was just happy that my wounded father was going to a hospital," said Katwal.
The U.S. relief mission was deployed after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. A magnitude-7.3 quake struck on May 12 and hours later the helicopter crashed.
Four of the Marines were part of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California. Two other Marines were combat cameramen based in Japan.
The cause of the crash has not been determined.
The two earthquakes have killed more than 8,700 people, injured thousands and destroyed many buildings.