Wed, 23 Aug 2000

Special team to probe helicopter crash

SURABAYA (JP): Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Achmad Sutjipto dismissed on Tuesday speculation that sabotage was behind a Navy helicopter crash which killed all five people on board on Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the ceremony to overseeing the removal of the bodies of the five crew members at Juanda Naval Airport here, Sutjipto said the state aircraft company IPTN-made BO-105 helicopter was airworthy before the fatal accident.

All the dead were members of Squadron 400.

Sutjipto said a special team would be set up to find out what had happened to the helicopter.

The helicopter crashed at 3:30 p.m. on Monday in a tobacco plantation in the village of Deru in Bojonegoro, some 110 kilometers west of Surabaya, according to Sutjipto.

The casualties were identified as pilot Second Lt. Daniel Fery Sandy, copilot Second Lt. Asep Bambang Nurandani, Second Sgt. Dwi Purwanto and Second Sgt. Priyanto. The only woman killed in the crash was Ika, who was Daniel's cousin.

All the bodies were flown on Tuesday to their respective hometowns: Daniel to Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, Asep to Tasikmalaya, West Java, Dwi to Nganjuk, East Java, Priyanto to Bogor, West Java, and Ika to Jakarta.

Engine trouble, especially abnormal fuel pressure, was assumed to be the cause of the fatal crash.

First. Lt. Priyantoro, who is also from Squadron 400, said that the ill-fated helicopter had refueled in Semarang before pilot Daniel was forced to make an emergency landing in the district of Padangan, Bojonegoro. Engine trouble was blamed for the unscheduled landing.

The squadron in Surabaya sent another helicopter soon after receiving reports about the emergency landing, Priyantoro said, adding that the pilot was Capt. Nyoman. Priyantoro and several technicians were in the assisting helicopter.

After everything was considered okay, Priyantoro said, the two helicopters flew one after the other, at a distance of about 100 meters and at about 300 feet in altitude.

"Daniel's helicopter flew a little lower, in front of ours. We kept communicating through the radio," Priyantoro said.

But about 10 miles after we entered Deru village, Daniel's helicopter looked shaky and began to take a nosedive, according to Priyantoro.

"Before the helicopter fell, I heard repeated shouts Allahu Akbar (God is Great) from the radio. Black smoke billowed as the helicopter crashed," he recollected.

Priyantoro said his helicopter returned to the naval base and requested help from the squadron.

Villagers who witnessed the accident said that they heard three loud explosions minutes after the helicopter smashed into the ground. (nur/sur)