08/11/2001
Press Release
SG/SM/8015



SECRETARY-GENERAL EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES ON DEATHS IN CRASH OF UNITED NATIONS


MISSION HELICOPTER OFF COAST OF SIERRA LEONE


Cause Initially Thought To Be Mechanical, Foul Play Not

Suspected; Bodies Recovered after Search and Rescue Operation


This is the text of a statement issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:


There was a tragic accident in Sierra Leone yesterday.  A Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), flight number UN-103, which was traveling from UNAMSIL headquarters to Lungi Airport on official duties, crashed into the sea shortly after taking off, at approximately 7:50 p.m. local time.  The helicopter was carrying 4 crew members, 2 Zambian military officers and one United Nations civilian air operations staff member.


UNAMSIL launched an extensive search and rescue operation, with the assistance of the Government of Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Three bodies were recovered before the search was discontinued at midnight.  The search and rescue operation resumed at 6 a.m. local time and is continuing.  Initial indications are that the cause of the accident is mechanical and no foul play or sabotage is suspected. 


The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to the Governments of Ukraine and Zambia and to the bereaved families.  He also wishes to express his deep appreciation of the services rendered by these UNAMSIL staff members in the pursuit of peace in Sierra Leone.


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