UN Chopper Crash: Pilot’s Condition Remains ‘Critical’

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No casualties have been reported from the United Nations (UN) helicopter marked RA 22426, bound for the Southeast that crash-landed after a few minutes of technical difficulties while en-route; however, one of the crewmembers – a pilot – is said to be in ‘critical’ condition.

The incident occurred in the Thinker’s Village Community in the vicinity of the Robert L. Johnson (RLJ) Hotel, along the Roberts International Airport highway.

Though the helicopter did not explode, it sustained significant damage.  Sandy and grassy terrain absorbed the craft’s impact with the ground. That allowed it to sink down deep into the soft surface – and to safety.

The chopper, which took-off at about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, April 22, from the James Springs Payne Airfield in Monrovia, was heading for Fishtown, River Gee County; but it developed technical problems right at the point of take off, passengers explained.

It was said that the injured pilot came in contact with metal roofing, (zinc) when the craft landed. A building under construction was partly damaged upon initial ground contact.

According to officials, the chopper was scheduled to make its first stop near Fish Town and later, Barclayville, Grand Kru County.

According to sources, there were nine people on board: three crewmen and six passengers; some of them were loaded into a Jeep and other vehicles, and taken to the JFK Memorial Hospital.

The occupants included UNMIL personnel and officials from government ministries headed for various rural assignments.

According to passengers, the pilot was forced to land the helicopter after assessing the seriousness of a mechanical problem that they had no answer for.

“The problem became serious while we were already over the ocean; the pilot had to make a U-turn to find a solid and safe ground for crash landing,” passengers told the Daily Observer.

A survivor, Grace Nyemah, from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said that while the helicopter was taking off, they noticed that the engine went off on three separate occasions. It was after the fourth attempt that it finally took off.

She said that the most intense moment came when it was notice that the engine of the helicopter had gone off, compelling the pilot to use his training and experience to maneuver for a forced – but safe – landing.

Ms. Nyemah said that while in the air, some unfamiliar activities claimed their attention; it was after several minutes that the fourth pilot officially informed them of the situation.

First, he calmed them down by saying that the technical team was finding a means of bringing the situation under control.

Grand Kru’s Chief Medical Officer, Mitchell Greene, who was also on board, had minor injuries on various parts of his body. He said that it was by the grace of God that they were saved; the situation was severe and very frightening, he explained.

He praised the pilot for bringing the aircraft down safely. “We are grateful to God that nothing very serious happened to the majority of us.”

Meanwhile community residents and eyewitnesses at the scene lauded the pilot for his bravery and quick-thinking; he saved the crewmen and passengers by returning the craft to dry land, as it certainly would have fallen into the ocean.

Meanwhile, UN said in a release following the crash that made an emergency landing a few minutes before noon at Thinker’s Village in Monrovia.

“The helicopter, with nine passengers and four crew members on board, was en route from Spriggs Payne Airfield to Fishtown as part of UN’s regular shuttle flight. One passenger and one crewmember sustained minor injuries. During the landing, the aircraft damaged a house, without causing injury to any of its residents or any other members of the local population. The Liberia National Police and UN Security have secured the area.

The UN has launched an investigation to establish the cause of the incident.

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