ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said Friday's helicopter crash in Gilgit-Baltistan's Naltar Valley happened due to engine failure, ruling out the possibility of any terrorist activity.
While addressing a press briefing, the foreign secretary expressed grief and extended the government's condolences over the sad demise of foreign dignitaries in the incident.
The trip was of a diplomatic nature and was planned to highlight development activities in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, said Chaudhry. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to inaugurate a Ski chairlift in the area, where Islamabad-based diplomats and their wives were also invited.
Four helicopters were carrying diplomats and officers to the event and one of them, which was carrying 19 people including high-level diplomats, met an accident just yards away from its landing site, said the foreign secretary. "We have recovered the black box and investigations are underway."
Of the 19 people on board at the time of the crash, 12 were foreign dignitaries, two pilots and five crew members, he added.
|Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry expresses his condolences to diplomats from the Philippines after a press conference on the helicopter crash that killed a number of foreign dignitaries. -AP|
The prime minister was also scheduled to land in Naltar, but after news of the crash, he was flown back to Islamabad. “PM Nawaz did want to go to the crash site, but his visit would have required many security formulations that are currently being utilised in the relief and rescue operation, which is why he cancelled his plan,” said Chaudhry.
The Air chief, however, did make it to the spot and closely monitored the operation, said Chaudhry.
Those who lost their lives in the accident include Ambassadors of Philippines and Norway, wives of Malaysian and Indonesian envoys, two pilots Major Faisal and Major Altamash and a crew member Subaidar Zakir.
“Diplomats of friendly countries, Philippines and Norway, lost their precious lives. The wives of Ambassador of Indonesia and High Commissioner of Malaysia also died in the crash. The entire Pakistani nation is deeply grieved and saddened at this tragic loss,” said a statement released by Foreign Office.
The foreign secretary further said it was the government's top priority to bring back the dead bodies to Islamabad, and for that a C-130 has been sent to Gilgit-Baltistan. But due to bad weather, the operation has been delayed till tomorrow (Saturday).
The people and the Government of Pakistan share the sorrow and grief of the family members of those who died in the crash. Messages of condolences from the Government of Pakistan have been sent to the concerned Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Embassies and the bereaved families, the Foreign Office statement added.
“As directed by the prime minister, efforts are underway to bring the mortal remains of those who died in the accident to Islamabad. The Government will also arrange for their transportation to their respective countries with dignity and honour,” it concluded.
Earlier, an army helicopter crash-landed on a school in Naltar Valley, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Asim Bajwa said.
The crashed helicopter was carrying a delegation of ambassadors to inspect projects on a three-day trip to Gilgit-Baltistan, where the foreign envoys were set to meet with the prime minister.
Nawaz Sharif expressed deep grief and sorrow over the tragic helicopter crash in Naltar near Gilgit-Baltistan that claimed at least seven lives this morning.
|Officials of the Philippines and Norwegian Embassies grieved on the deceased ambassadors during the press conference at Foreign Office. -APP|
He extended heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives in this incident and announced a day of mourning.