An NH90 helicopter of the Royal Netherlands Air Force crashed into sea, 12km off Aruba, killing a pilot and a tactical coordinator. Two other crew members were rescued.
The NH90 NFH was stationed on the offshore patrol vessel Zr. Ms. Groningen (P843) of the Royal Netherlands Navy, which is based at Curaçao. The helicopter was engaged in a coastguard patrol mission over the Caribbean Sea.
“Two of the four crew members were killed,” said Dutch army commander Rob Bauer at a press conference in The Hague early Monday morning. Attempts were made to resuscitate the two soldiers, but it was to no avail.
A Coast Guard rescue helicopter with a Department of Defence dive team flew to the scene from Curaçao to try and recover the black box of the aircraft. “The operation is made difficult by strong winds, strong currents and large waves“, said Bauer.
The cause of the accident remains unknown. An investigation will be opened by the Defence Security Inspectorate (IVM). The helicopter was stationed on the Zr.MS Groningen, currently in Curaçao.
The victims are Lieutenant Christine Martens, 34, and Erwin Warnies, 34, tactical coordinator. “The other two crew members are not seriously injured,” said Rob Bauer.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld expressed their condolences. “I think that everyone is shocked at Defense, in the Netherlands. We sympathise with the family and loved ones. Truly terrible news,” Rutte said to RTL News.
The NH90 is primarily a maritime combat helicopter that can operate from patrol ships and air defense and command frigates. The Dutch Ministry of Defense also uses the aircraft as a transport helicopter over land or, for example, from the amphibious transport ships and the new Joint Logistic Support Ship Karel Doorman to drop off special forces, such as boarding teams.