- According to the AFZ, the pilots made the emergency landing after the helicopter developed a technical fault during flight on Thursday while flying from Kutanga Range in Kwekwe to Manyame Air Force Base.
AN Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) helicopter crash-landed near oil expresser Surface Wilmar in Chitungwiza on Thursday evening, Commander AFZ Air Marshal Elson Moyo has disclosed.
The Mi-35 helicopter gunship reportedly made a sudden U-turn just after crossing Chitungwiza Road into Unit J, and tried to land safely at a nearby aerodrome, but crashed before it could do so. Immediately afterwards, three other helicopters immediately flew from Manyame Air Base to the scene to provide rescue operations.
In his statement, Air Marshal Moyo commended the pilots for averting a major accident after their chopper had developed a technical fault.
He said a result of the actions, there were no casualties or damage to property on the ground and all the crew on board, including five aircraft technicians, did not sustain injuries.
“It took tremendous skill and presence of mind for the pilots to put the lives of the people on the ground first, while experiencing an emergency,” he said.
“I wish to commend the aircrew for averting a major accident and saving lives and damage to property,” he said.
According to the AFZ, the pilots made the emergency landing after the helicopter developed a technical fault during flight on Thursday while flying from Kutanga Range in Kwekwe to Manyame Air Force Base.
“Group Captain Maxwell Sakupwanya as the Captain and Flight Lieutenant Atiowin Tsongora, as the co-pilot/navigator, however had the presence of mind to steer the helicopter away from built up areas and other obstacles before making a forced landing about five kilometres to the south of Chitungwiza (Unit L cemeteries),” said the AFZ.
Some Chitungwiza residents also witnessed the incident.
“The incident occurred at 4.30pm and we feared for the worst, but the helicopter ended up landing at the dumpsite where there are no buildings,” Spencer Kandoma said.
Another witness Tendai Sauta said: “I saw the helicopter from a distance swinging and thought it was a drill. Eventually, it crashed. In a short space of time, three helicopters came and landed to rescue. I could not visit the scene for fear of being arrested for violating COVID-19 curfew,” Sauta said.
The wreckage was towed away yesterday by an army truck under heavy police escort.
Thursday’s crash comes barely three months after another AFZ helicopter, an Agusta Bell 412, crashed on April 23, killing four people on the spot.
Two others were injured after an Air Force of Zimbabwe Agusta Bell 412 (AB 412) helicopter crashed in the Hukuru Area in Arcturus, Mashonaland East. ■