Malaysia helicopter crash: 2 choppers did parade rehearsal together for first time, says defence minister

Malaysia helicopter crash: 2 choppers did parade rehearsal together for first time, says defence minister

Malaysia helicopter crash: 2 choppers did parade rehearsal together for first time, says defence minister


A navy service member who was swimming in a pool that one helicopter crashed into also suffered a minor injury.


KUALA LUMPUR: The two Royal Malaysian Navy helicopters that collided in mid-air and crashed, killing all 10 people on board, were rehearsing together for the first time for a parade, Defence Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin said on Tuesday (Apr 23).


Nine of the 10 navy personnel were below 40 years old, Mr Khaled told reporters at a press conference, adding that the youngest was 26 and the oldest was in his 40s. Malaysian media later reported that the victims included Commander Muhammad Firdaus Ramli, 44.


The Royal Malaysian Navy’s HOM and Fennec helicopters collided over Lumut naval base at 9.32am, killing all 10 on board in what a defence analyst says could be Malaysia’s worst military accident in terms of fatalities.


The minister said their bodies are being brought to an Ipoh hospital for a post-mortem before being buried according to their family members’ wishes.


The relevant agencies will handle funeral expenses and look into issuing compensation and benefits for victims’ families, he said.


The navy identified the victims in a statement on Tuesday.


The HOM helicopter carried four male crew members, including Commander Firdaus Ramli, commanding officer of the 503 squadron, and three female passengers.


The Fennec helicopter carried three male crew members, including Commander Muhamad Amir Mohamad, commanding officer of the 502 squadron.


Mr Khaled said a navy service member who was swimming in the pool the Fennec helicopter crashed into was also hit by debris and suffered a minor injury.


The 90th Navy Day parade, due to be held on Saturday, will be cancelled. The navy will instead hold a ceremony to pray for the deceased on Friday.


The Fennec helicopter was training for the parade for the third time, while the HOM helicopter was training for the first time, Mr Khaled said.


The Fennec helicopter was based in Lumut while the HOM helicopter was based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and flew to Lumut to participate in the rehearsals, he added.


The minister said the “new” HOM helicopter was delivered to the navy in 2021, while the Fennec helicopter has been in operation since 2003. Malaysia’s navy maintains a fleet of seven helicopters: Four Fennecs, two HOMs and one Super Lynx.




Footage of the incident circulated on social media showed seven helicopters flying over the base in a loose formation. The camera then pans to a pair that had separated to the right.


One of the helicopters was seen veering to the right, its main rotor hitting the left side of the other helicopter, creating a cloud of smoke and flying debris. The helicopters then fell to the ground.


When asked by a reporter if preliminary investigations had pointed to a possible cause, Mr Khaled said he did not want to “pre-empt” anything.


“We want to respect the family members’ sensitivities and these things should be investigated thoroughly,” he said.


The navy has set up an investigation board to probe the accident, assisted by the Royal Malaysian Air Force as well as the Director General of Technical Airworthiness (DGTA), Mr Khaled added.


The DGTA is a government body that ensures the design, production and maintenance of state-registered aircraft are consistent with international standards and recommended practices, its website states.


Mr Ridzwan Rahmat, principal defence analyst at military intelligence company Janes, told CNA that the Fennec helicopters are used for training aviators, while the HOM helicopters are used mainly for maritime surveillance and special forces insertion.


“From the video, you can see that the Fennec's main rotor hit the AW139 (HOM) on the latter's portside,” he said.


“This suggests that the Fennec was experiencing a sideway skid from the centre of its turn.”


The analyst said the complexities of rehearsing for a multi-aircraft aerial display could have been compounded by the fact that the two helicopters were not based in the same place and were only training together for the first time.


“Pilot cohesiveness and understanding may have yet to be forged as well as it should before the event,” he added.


Mr Ridzwan suggested that based on open-source information he has reviewed, the crash on Apr 23 appears to be Malaysia’s worst military accident so far in terms of deaths.


Bernama reported that the latest collision is the eighth such incident involving both civilian and military helicopters in the past nine years.


In March this year, a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency AW139 helicopter crashed into the sea near Angsa Island off the coast of Kuala Selangor during a rescue flight. Four crew members, including the pilot, survived after being rescued by fishermen.


In November 2020, two G2CA helicopters, each with two passengers, collided mid-air after taking off from Subang airport as part of flight training.


While the crew members of one helicopter managed to make an emergency landing and survive, the other helicopter crashed in Taman Melawati, killing both on board including a former naval officer.


Mahmud, A. H. (2024, April 23). Malaysia helicopter crash: 2 choppers did parade rehearsal together for first time, says defence minister. CNA.

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