Sad day in Thailand: the wreck of a military helicopter with five people aboard which went missing on Sunday was found by search parties on Doi Inthanon, in Northern Thailand. The helicopter, a U.S.-made UH-72 Lakota, had taken off on Sunday at 10.30 a.m. Pang Ma Pha district of Mae Hong Son in a mission of relief in the North, following floods that have affected wide swaths of area.
Aboard the helicopter were Major General Nopporn Ruanchan, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, along with Captain Suthan Onmuang and Lieutenant Navapat Maneechote, the two pilots, and Chief Warrant Officer Chaisakda Thaso and Sergeant Major Mongkolchai Roo-ngan, the flight engineers.
The tragedy occurred on the return flight, about two kilometres southwest of the air force’s Doi Inthanon radar station in Mae Chaem district., when the helicopter dissappeared from radar. A huge rescue mission was initiated by authorities, with more than 400 soldiers split in 40 teams scouring the peaks in the area.
The first signs of the crash were found Monday, around midday. An hour later, the search teams discovered the bodies of the helicopter’s occupants. Four of them were reportedly found about a kilometre away from the crash site, while the body of Maj. Gen. Nopporn Ruanchan was found inside the wreck. According to medical assessments, all five were killed on the spot.
Maj Gen Kosol Prathumchart, commander of the 33rd Military Circle in Chiang Mai, said that the main cause of the crash was bad weather in the heavily forested area, with thick fog and visibility down to five to 10 metres.
The UH-72A Lakota is a twin-engine helicopter with a single, four-bladed main rotor, a militarized version of the Eurocopter EC145, built by American Eurocopter. The crashed helicopter is one of six commisioned by Thailand’s government in between 2014-2015.