GILGIT, Pakistan – Ambassador of Philippines to Pakistan Domingo D Lucenario Jr, Ambassador of Norway to Pakistan Leif Larsen and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors to Pakistan were killed in a helicopter crash in Naltar Valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Asim Bajwa said in a tweet on Friday.
Two pilots were also killed when the Pakistan Army helicopter crash-landed on a school in Naltar Valley. Media reports identified the two pilots as Major Altamash and Major Faisal. Injuries were also reported from the incident in which Dutch Ambassador Marcel de Vink and Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananicz were injured.
Talking to DawnNews, DG ISPR said the helicopter crashed due to a technical fault and ruled out the possibility of any terrorist or subversive activity.
He, however, said that as per procedure, a board of inquiry has been constituted to investigate the cause of the crash.
There were three MI-17 helicopters, one carrying foreign diplomats, one carrying the prime minister and his staff and a third one with senior military officials.
This file photo shows Polish ambassador Andrezej Ananicz (C) with his wife (L) and Ambassador of Norway Leif Larsen (R) — Dawn/File
The injured have been taken to the emergency ward of the Combined Military Hospital in Gilgit, hospital officials said.
Arrangements are being made by the Pakistan Air Force to bring the bodies of the ambassadors and the wives of two other envoys to Islamabad.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office in Islamabad has informed the respective governments about the tragic incident.
Earlier, in a series of tweets, Bajwa said that six Pakistanis and 11 foreigners were on board the MI-17 helicopter.
An image of the crash site – DawnNews
According to a list of passengers obtained by AFP, the ambassadors of Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Romania, Norway, South Africa, the Philippines and Poland were scheduled to fly on the helicopter.
The passenger added that the air convoy was supposed to have included four helicopters but the number was later reduced to three.
“It was a diplomatic trip with members of 37 countries in total,” said a passenger in one of the helicopters, who requested anonymity, adding that the school had caught fire after the crash.
The two pilots Major Faisal and Major Altamash killed in the crash – DawnNews
“We have been told to send in as many ambulances as we can because the situation there is ‘urgent’,” said a senior official.
The injured were being air-lifted to the military hospital in Gilgit, added another senior local police official.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was travelling to Gilgit on a separate aircraft to launch two projects when the accident happened. He returned to Islamabad, his office said.
President Mamnoon Hussain and PM Nawaz have expressed grief and sorrow over the incident, said a report published on Radio Pakistan.