Monrovia — Authorities of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have ruled out any foul play in the MI-8 helicopter crash in Ganta, Nimba County on Friday, November 2, 2007 at 10:13am local time.
UNMIL head of mission, Ambassador Alan Doss, made the clarification in an apparent denial that the aircraft had been shot down by some unknown gunmen, as contained in a Russian News and Information Agency (NOVOSTI) release shortly after the helicopter crash over the weekend.
UNMIL said the news agency report was based on 'pure speculation and not factual'.
"Until the findings of the investigation are made known, it is too early to speculate on the causes of the crash. As soon as the results of the investigation are known, they will be made public," Amb. Doss asserted.
The UNMIL chief, who dispelled the notion that the aircraft might have been shot down in northern Liberia, also pointed out that a team of aviation experts are due in the country 'shortly' to investigate circumstances that resulted in the crash.
Addressing an array of journalists yesterday at UNMIL regular press briefing, Mr. Doss maintained that the helicopter might have suddenly developed a technical fault, which eventually resulted in the 'tragic accident'.
The UNMIL chief, who appeared disturbed at the press conference, categorically refuted claims by the Russians that the helicopter crash was a direct result of 'terrorist means or someone harboring surreptitious motives'.
Mr. Doss asserted that a team of aviation experts from the UNMIL Safety Unit and the International Aviation Authority including a senior management team of UTAir, the owners of the aircraft, are due in the country shortly to investigate the circumstances leading to the accident.
The Russian Interstate Aviation committee is expected to send representatives to Liberia to beef up the probe.
Meanwhile, the UN envoy has conveyed his deep sympathies and condolences to the relatives and friends of the three-crew members who died when their MI-8 cargo helicopter crashed.
The three Russians who died in the crash included the pilot in command, Vitali Drozdov, 42, co-pilot Sergey Koloso, 53, and the flight engineer, Nikolai Zhoriko, 58.
"I have received calls from the President, the Vice-President and other senior members of the Liberian Government expressing their deep shock and sadness over the lives lost," Mr. Doss said when he spoke with the senior staff of the UTAir at the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) headquarters in Monrovia.
"We all feel touched by this tragedy because we fly with you day in day out," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General told the four-man UTAir team. "I wish to express my personal sorrow and ask you to convey our condolences to the families of the crash victims and members of the UTAir Company." Meanwhile, Ambassador Doss has offered the support and assistance of the UN in all the arrangements being made so far for the repatriation of the three bodies to Russia.