13 soldiers killed in helicopter crash in Turkey’s Şırnak
Thirteen soldiers were killed when a helicopter crashed in the Şenoba district of the southeastern province of Şırnak late on May 31.
The General Staff said in a statement that the AS 532 Cougar-type helicopter got tangled in a high-voltage power line shortly after taking off from the Şenoba Brigade Commandship at around 8:55 p.m., according to preliminary information.
The helicopter reportedly crashed after reaching an elevation of 300 meters before the ammunition on board exploded after a fire broke out.
Witnesses said they initially heard a loud explosion and so they went to the scene, where they saw exploding ammunition.
“When we went to the scene, we saw that the helicopter was still burning. The ammunition inside it was still exploding, so we couldn’t get close,” one of the witnesses, Ali Belek, said on June 1.
The slain soldiers have been identified as Division Commander Maj. Gen. Aydoğan Aydın, colonels Oğuzhan Küçükdemir and Gökhan Peker, Lt. Col. Songül Yakut, Major Koray Onay, captains Nuri Şener, İlker Acar and Serhat Sığınak, First Lieutenant Abdulmuttalip Kesikbaş, staff sergeants Fevzi Kıral and Mehmet Erdoğan, and specialized sergeants Hakan İncekar and Zeki Koç.
Aydın and the military delegation took off from Şenoba after carrying out investigations in the military base region when the accident took place.
The pieces of the helicopter were found some 200 meters away from the high-voltage power line, according to state-run Anadolu Agency. Some of the wires were seen dangling from the power line as a result of the accident.
The officials said the helicopter crashed in a valley, thus making it difficult to reach the debris immediately.
Many village guards and villagers went to the scene to help the search and rescue teams, while medical and Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) teams were dispatched to the area.
In addition, strict security measures were taken around the scene and the Şırnak Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office concluded its examinations in the area.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, Chief of the Army Gen. Salih Zeki Çolak, Naval Forces Commander Adm. Bülent Bostanoğlu, Air Forces Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal, Defense Minister Fikri Işık, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu all headed to Şırnak to make inspections at the scene.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been briefed on the accident and he has extended his condolences.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Energy Minister Berat Albayrak and European Union Minister Ömer Çelik also extended their condolences after the crash.
From the opposition ranks, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu extended his condolences on his Twitter account.
Kılıçdaroğlu also visited Aydın’s family in Ankara to offer his condolences.
On June 1, a funeral ceremony was held at the 23rd Gendarmerie Border Division Command for seven of the soldiers, while the other six were transferred to the capital Ankara for autopsies.
After the funeral ceremony, military chief Akar gave a speech in the command, saying the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been showing “great heroism and sacrifices” in the fight against terrorism.
According to the statement released from the TSK, Akar said the soldiers were acting with the principle of “If I die, I’ll become a martyr; if I live, I’ll be a veteran.”
During his speech, Akar also said “the struggle against all terrorist organizations, mainly the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK, will continue with the same determination until the last militant is neutralized.”
The statement said the top brass left the area after carrying out investigations.