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US help for Gwanda helicopter crash probe

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THE United States manufacturers of the Robinson R44 helicopter that crashed in Maphane near Gwanda last week killing Beitbridge tycoon Christian Malila Ndou have offered to send their expert investigators to examine the wreckage of the chopper to determine the possible cause of the horrific crash.

ALBERT NCUBE
OWN CORRESPONDENT

The Robinson Helicopter Company, which is based at Zamperini Field in Torrance, California, is the largest manufacturer of civil helicopters in North America.

In an e-mailed response to Southern Eye’s inquiry about the possible cause of the chopper’s crash, Robinson Helicopter Company public relations officer Loretta Conley said they offered assistance to any investigating authority in the event of an accident involving one of their helicopters.

“We are aware of the accident, thanks to the news media. Robinson offers assistance to any official investigating authority in the event of an accident involving a Robinson helicopter, including providing a Robinson investigator for the examination of the wreckage, provided one is requested by the investigating authority,” said Conley.

She said her company had not received any official notification of the accident from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) or the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by the US Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident as well as significant accidents in other modes of transportation such as railroad, highway, marine and pipeline. It determines the probable cause of accidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents.

Conley said thorough investigations into the cause of the crash could last up to a year.

“A complete and thorough investigation must be performed prior to determining the cause of the accident, which can take up to a year sometimes,” she said.

Caaz chief executive officer David Chawota yesterday told Southern Eye that investigations into the helicopter crash were still in progress and declined to comment on the Robinson Helicopter Company’s offer to dispatch expert crash scene investigators.

“The investigations are still in progress. I will not comment about that (Robinson’s offer) because there are procedures and regulations that bind our investigations,” he said.

Robinson Helicopter Company also passed its condolences to the Ndou family following their loss.

“Robinson is deeply saddened by the loss of life in any accident involving a Robinson helicopter,” Conley said.

“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family and friends of the gentleman lost in this tragic event.”

Ndou perished when he attempted to jump to safety after his helicopter developed a suspected mechanical fault in mid-air.

His body was dismembered by the chopper’s rotor blades and some body parts were scattered several metres away from the wreckage.

His remains were buried next to his father at Siyoka village in Beitbridge last Saturday.

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