Thorough probe to be conducted

LUMUT: The question of what caused the tragic mid-air collision between two helicopters at the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) base, resulting in the loss of 10 crew members, remains unanswered.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin urged patience regarding the cause of the incident, highlighting the need for comprehensive findings from the ongoing investigation.

He said a navy committee would be formed to conduct a thorough investigation into the collision, emphasising that “it will not be nice to make any assumptions”.

A video of the incident shows one of the helicopters clipping the rotor of the other aircraft before crashing.

The AgustaWestland M503-3 of the Maritime Helicopter Unit (HOM) carrying seven people crashed near the stairs and running tracks of the RMN stadium, while the M502-6 Fennec with three people aboard plummeted into a swimming pool.

The 10 victims of the helicopter collision included seven men and three women, their ages ranging from 26 to 41.

Mohamed Khaled said that one navy personnel in the pool sustained minor injuries from debris.

Both helicopters took off from the Sitiawan field at 9.03am on a training routine for the 90th Naval Day celebration.

“Post-mortem will be carried out at Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh. We will then leave it to the families to decide on the funeral plans, as not all of them are from here. There are families from Sabah as well,” he said.

“As for the Fennec, this was the third rehearsal involving the helicopter, while it was the first for the HOM that the navy had acquired in 2021.

“There were a total of seven helicopters involved during the rehearsal, which was into its fourth day today (yesterday),” he said.

According to Mohamed Khaled, in light of the incident, the 90th Naval Day celebration to be held at the naval base has been cancelled.

Instead, he said “Tahlil” and “Doa Selamat” would be conducted this Friday.

“The Sultan of Selangor will be joining in for the prayers as the honorary captain of the navy.

“All celebrations planned have been cancelled,” he told reporters after visiting the accident site and the families of the crew at the naval base yesterday.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said the government would provide special assistance to the next of kin of the 10 officers and personnel who died.

He said their welfare was now the government’s priority.

He said the Prime Minister would announce any assistance and support from the government to the families of these victims.

“I am sure there are definitely some of them who contributed to the Armed Forces Fund Board (LTAT), some already have pensions, and some have insurance,” he told reporters at the base.

Fadillah said the incident would have a profound effect on the family members, as some of the victims were young officers and personnel.

“I had time to visit and meet the next of kin, and we can all feel their sadness.

“What’s more, the majority of them are from young families. Young pilots and young members. Their children are still young.

“So imagine a three-year-old child who doesn’t know anything about losing either a mother or a father,” he said.

He reminded all parties, including the media, not to make any speculation about the incident out of respect for the victims’ families.

“Let the police and army do the investigation, we will wait for the full report later,” he said.

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