Five British servicemen lost their lives on Saturday, when the helicopter they were flying went down in the Afghan mountains, in Kandahar province.
According to news reports, the soldiers were highly trained members of the Army Air Corps, Royal Air Force and Intelligence Corps, who were in a Special Forces mission when the tragic incident happened. The Lynx Mk9 helicopter they were traveling in is believed to have been escorting a larger Chinook aircraft which was carrying Special Forces troops when it crashed in the mountains.
Investigators say that the aircraft may have suffered a “catastrophic mechanical failure” while it was flying over a Taliban stronghold in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar province, about 30 miles (48.4 km) from the border with Pakistan. Initial claims that the Taliban insurgents had shot down the aircraft with a rocket were denied by authorities.
The Ministry of Defence named last night the five victims who lost their lives in the accident. Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner, Corporal James Walters, all of the Army Air Corps (AAC), together with Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan of the Royal Air Force and Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas of the Intelligence Corps were killed when the Lynx helicopter fell to the ground.
The crash site in Afghanistan was sealed off, as the Ministry of Defence is investigating the circumstances behind the tragedy.
On Saturday night, prime minister David Cameron paid tribute to the bravery of the troops that lost their lives saying, “My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed in this terrible tragedy.”
“Every British fatality is a source of deep sadness. This latest incident brings home to us all once again how our armed forces continue to put their lives on the line to help the people of Afghanistan.”
This is the first time British troops are killed in a UK helicopter crash since the conflict in Afghanistan began in 2001. There have been recorded three other Chinook crashes and an Apache emergency landing, but all crew members survived. The recent deaths bring the total number of British soldiers lost in Afghanistan to 453, Daily Mail informs.
Defence secretary Philip Hammond says that Lynx helicopters, made by Westland in Yeovil, will continue to be used in the area as they are the world’s fastest (can reach speeds of 185mph/297km per hour) and “have a good operational safety record.”
Army Air Corps is the same unit of the Army Prince Harry belonged to when he flew an Apache helicopter gunships in Afghanistan during his last tour of duty last year.