UNITED NATIONS, August 30, /ITAR-TASS/. The bodies of three Russian pilots who died in South Sudan when their Mi-8 helicopter crashed on August 26 left for Russia by plane on Friday, the UN press-service has told ITAR-TASS.
The pilot’s bodies were sent to Russia after a ceremony at the UN compound in Juba, UN spokesperson Eri Kaneko said, adding that the plane would make one stopover in Entebbe, Uganda.
The Mi-8 AMT helicopter of Russia’s UTair airlines, operating under contract with the UN mission in South Sudan, crashed near the Bentiu village on August 26. Three crew members - pilot Andrei Berdnikov, flight engineer Tuktasin Ishmetov and Aleksei Sazontov died. Co-pilot Aleksandr Lobkov was injured and taken to hospital.
Earlier, the UN Secretary-General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Lobkov’s condition was getting better and he was even able to pay last respects to his dead comrades on Friday in person. The ceremony was also attended by UN staff, including the acting chief of the mission Toby Lanzer.
Dujarric said he offered profound condolences over the death of Russian crew members and emphasized the United Nations’ determination to establish the circumstances of the tragedy. The UN mission in Sudan is proceeding with the investigation of the air crash.
In the meantime, as Russia’s UN envoy vitally Churkin said on August 27, there was ample evidence the helicopter had been shot down.
Churkin recalled that the sole surviving crew member had already testified in hospital.
“He said that at an altitude of about 1,000 some object hit the tail and the helicopter caught fire. The crew was trying to put out the flame when the helicopter crash-landed,” Churkin said.
Earlier this week the UN Security Council adopted a statement demanding those responsible for the pilot’s death be brought to justice.