Investigators looking into last week’s fatal accident at a military training centre in Lešť are focused on a scenarios whereby the soldier’s helicopter safety line had to be cut to help prevent a larger disaster.
The Mi-17 helicopter malfunctioned during landing and was likely to crash carrying three crew members and 13 more soldiers waiting to land, the Sme daily wrote on September 19, citing two independent sources from the security forces. Investigators check the cause of the accident and if the failure could have been prevented – and also whether sacrificing the military police officer Ľubomír Igaz, 40, by cutting through the rope he was hanging on was the only way to save the remaining people on board.
“The investigation continues, but is seems that the tragedy could have been much bigger. After a breakdown of the helicopter with 13 people on board, every second was crucial in keeping it in the air,” one of the anonymous sources told Sme. “In such cases, pilots do not have many options, and norms stipulate quite clearly what has to be done.”
Military police officers were training in Lešť, with 13 of them supposed to land from a helicopter and fulfil the assigned tasks. The crew consisted of the right and the left pilot and a cockpit technician. One of the 13 men was in charge of abseiling. Weather conditions were fair and the exercise moved forward smoothly, until the helicopter’s electronics and hydraulics failed. The helicopter lost stability and pilots lost control.
“That is probably why they cut off the rope,” one of the sources says. The second confirmed that version of events and added that two soldiers managed to land but in the crucial moment, 13 were still left inside the helicopter.
Igaz died after falling 20 metres. He was buried on September 18 in Partizánske, according to Sme.
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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