All 12 people on board a police helicopter that crashed in the eastern province of Tunceli were killed on April 18, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has said.
Contact with the Sikorsky helicopter was lost at 11:43 a.m., Soylu said during press conference.
“There is no external factor behind the crash of the helicopter. It crashed due to bad weather conditions,” he added.
Soylu also said that reaching the debris of the helicopter took two-and-a-half hours.
The helicopter initially took off from city center of Tunceli after picking up Dereli. The helicopter then stopped in the Nazimiye and Pülümür districts in order to pick up police officers attending the commissary exam. The helicopter took off for a final time from Pülümür and crashed en route to the Ovacık district.
No signals were received from the helicopter approximately 10 minutes after it took off.
The Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawk type helicopter was carrying a judge, seven police officers, one sergeant and three crew members who were on duty on referendum day on April 16, the Tunceli Governor’s Office said in a statement.
Judge Onur Alan, police officers Ekrem Dereli, Sadettin Demir, Candaş Kaplan, Mesut Özdemir, Ahmet Cihan Kilci, Hasan Yıldırım and Azam Gündede, pilot Abdullah Ortanca, technician Murat Ködük, and contractual pilot Dilaver Karsavuranoğlu were reportedly on the helicopter.
Teams from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) were dispatched to the mountainous rural area of Tunceli’s Çambulak district to conduct search efforts.
The Turkish Air Force also dispatched a CN235 type aircraft to detect the location of the debris.
Heavy fog in the region made the rescue operation difficult, Turkish media reports stated.
The helicopter crashed into a rural area at an altitude of 2,500 kilometers between the Çambulak and Kocatepe villages, according to AFAD.
According to the Doğan News Agency, one of the crew members called the emergency services to ask for help, saying seven people were wounded.
The governor’s office, however, denied the agency’s claims, saying that the news about the help call was not true.
Turkish Prime Minster Binali Yıldırım and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have reportedly been informed by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu about the crash.
Meanwhile, poor weather also led to a landslide on the road to the Sarıgül neighborhood, after which over 40 AFAD members were struggling to reach the area. Caterpillars were also dispatched to the scene.
AFAD also dispatched additional staff from the eastern provinces of Erzurum and Elazığ and the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
Pülümür Mayor Müslüm Tosun said the helicopter struggled to stay on air but failed and went off the radar.
“Villagers saw that the helicopter struggled to stay on air a few times but it failed in the end. They said the helicopter went off the radar after losing control,” he said.
Tosun said reaching the debris was very difficult due to harsh weather conditions.