Two bodies spotted at crash site of Ugandan helicopter in Kenya

NAIROBI, KENYA (BNO NEWS) -- Two bodies have been spotted at the site in Kenya where a Ugandan military helicopter crashed on Sunday, military officials said on Tuesday, adding that several others remain missing. Crew members from another crash site have been rescued.

The incidents happened on Sunday morning after four Ugandan military helicopters took off from a base in the Ugandan city of Entebbe and were scheduled to refuel in the Kenyan town of Wajir before continuing their flight to Somalia. But only one of the helicopters landed safely in the Kenyan city of Garissa, with its crew reporting that it had lost contact with the three other Mil Mi-24 helicopters.

"As it has turned out, one of them made an emergency landing in the mountains and sent a distress call to Nairobi between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday evening," said Ugandan Defense Minister General Odongo Jeje, referring to Mount Kenya. "The other two that went missing have now been found."

Officials had initially said that the missing helicopters were found and that all 28 troops and crew members on board were safe, but the Ugandan military later retracted those comments. "The pilot and crew of the helicopter that landed in Kenya Mountains have been rescued and are safely in Nairobi," Jeje said on Tuesday. "Another crew has been evacuated to Nanyuki."

No casualties were reported in the helicopter which made an emergency landing, and only one person was injured in the second helicopter which crash-landed. But the Kenyan military has now found the third helicopter which was said to be destroyed and on fire, with at least two bodies visible from the air.

Four or five people are still believed to be missing, but officials have given conflicting numbers about the people on board the helicopters. "We are making efforts to reach the families of those that are still missing as our hearts are with them," Jeje said. "We want to be as factual and as sensitive as possible so we appeal for calm as we continue to search for our comrades."

Kenyan military officer Brig. Francis Ogola told CNN that items found at the crash site indicate the missing service members may have survived the crash and left the area. "Items (were) arranged in a matter that suggest that they have evacuated from that location and they are somewhere in the mountain," Ogola told CNN.

The Ugandan helicopters were being sent to Somalia to reinforce the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and were to be used for aerial combat against Somali militants. They were also expected to provide aerial support for convoys, reconnaissance missions along supply routes, medical evacuations, and search-and-rescue operations.

The cause of Sunday's incident remains unknown, but Ugandan officials have said preliminary information indicates poor weather may have been the cause. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered his brother, General Salim Saleh, to lead an investigation into the accidents.

(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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