The Turkish military helicopter crashed on a hillside in Tatvan, Bitlis province. Eleven occupants died in the crash and two were injured.
In a statement, the ministry said the Cougar helicopter took off from the eastern province of Bingöl at 1:55 p.m. and was en route to Bitlis province’s Tatvan district when contact with the aircraft was lost at around 2:25 p.m.
“A search and rescue party consisting of a UAV, a CN-235 airplane and a helicopter was dispatched immediately,” the statement raid.
The ministry initially said nine soldiers on board the helicopter were killed in the crash, adding that four survivors were transferred to the hospital for treatment. Commander of the 8th Corps, Lt. Gen. Osman Erbaş was among those who perished. Hours after the crash, the death toll increased to 11 after two of the wounded soldiers succumbed to his injuries.
“We wish God’s mercy upon those who lost their lives in this deeply saddening accident, convey our sympathies to their families, friends, and our nation, and wish for a speedy recovery to the wounded,” the statement read.
Later, Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar, Chief of General Staff Yaşar Güler and Commander of Turkish Land Forces Ümit Dündar left the capital Ankara to inspect the crash area and check on the treatment of the wounded soldiers.
The German-French-made Cougar helicopters have been involved in three other accidents since they entered the Turkish army’s inventory in 1996, resulting in the death of 28 soldiers before Thursday’s latest accident, Cumhuriyet newspaper.