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Uganda's Museveni orders investigation after military chopper crash

A Uganda People’s Defence Forces Mi-17 chopper at the Airbase in Entebbe. A similar helicopter crashed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday. [Courtesy, Daily Monitor]

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has ordered an investigation after a military chopper crashed killing dozens of People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).

Museveni, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces ordered a board of inquiry to investigate how and why military helicopters were dropping from the skies. 

According to the Daily Monitor, more than a dozen Uganda People’s Defence Force soldiers perished in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after a helicopter crashed on them.

The Mi-17 helicopter, which is mainly used for transportation, medical evacuation and VIP travel, had just delivered food consignment to the troops engaged in Operation Shujaa when it tumbled and exploded during take-off. 

The publication said Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, the army spokesman confirmed the incident in a telephone interview that the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter had crashed. 

“Yes, it is true one of our helicopters crashed. I haven’t received details about the causalities,” Brig Gen Kulayigye said. 

Asked about President Museveni issuing a radio message ordering an investigation into what exactly happened to the UPDF helicopter, he said “everytime there is an accident, a board of inquiry is established to investigate the matter and they have put up one in this incident.” 

Uganda People’s Defence Air Force (UPDAF) Deputy Commander, Maj Gen Charles Okidi, will lead the inquiries, according to a military radio message sent out last evening. 

Highly-placed security sources said the tail rotor of the helicopter, which was technically on a captain-supervised flight, struck a tree, leading it to spin uncontrollably before crashing on troops collecting the food. 

The instructor-cum-pilot in the Monday incident has posthumously been named as Ukrainian national Yury Vyshykvy and died on the spot while the Ugandan pilot, Capt Patrick Arinaitwe, and five other crew members sustained varied injuries. 

The casualties and fatalities have been moved to Bombo Military Hospital outside Kampala.

In February last year, four UPDF soldiers were injured in Somalia after another chopper crashed.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) launched investigations into the circumstances under which the chopper crashed.

The helicopter belonged to the AU mission's Aviation Unit from the Uganda People's Defense Force.