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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, October 18, 2018

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Military helicopter crash kills 16 in Vietnam

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HANOI, VIETNAM - At least 16 people were killed in a military transport helicopter crash in Vietnam Monday while on a routine parachute training mission, officials said.

Five more people were injured in the early morning accident that occurred on the outskirts of Hanoi in Thach That, about 35 kilometers from the Vietnamese capital.

"The accident happened in Thach That when the MI-171 helicopter was conducting a parachuting exercise," Vo Van Tuan, the deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese People's Army, told The Wall Street Journal.

The officials said that the Russian-made helicopter burst into flames and crashed down into an abandoned house, some 15 minutes after it took off just west of Hanoi.

The Mi-171, according to the maker, Avia Russia, is medium multi-purpose helicopter. Over 11,000, including its variants, have been produced to date and are in service in some 80 countries.

The deputy chief of the general staff said that the dead and injured were all military personnel. Sixteen of those on board were parachute recruits from the Air Force's helicopter regiment. There were also two trainers and three crew members on board, a state media report said.

Officials in a military hospital where the dead and injured were brought said 16 people were killed. They said that five people were being treated for serious burn injuries.

Vo Van Tuan said that the "priority now is to look after the five injured, some who are in serious condition".

Media reports citing eyewitnesses said the helicopter appeared to run into difficulties before it crashed and caught fire.

"The aircraft was flying low, it hit the ground and exploded at the same time," a local resident told AFP news agency.

"It seemed like the pilot wanted to divert the plane from hitting the local market and houses, so it ran into a field."

Another unidentified person quoted by South China Morning Post said: "I heard an aircraft making a strange noise ... I ran outside and the aircraft exploded, there was a huge blaze then a plume of smoke."

The latest accident is a grim reminder of a 2008 crash when five Vietnamese military pilots were killed in their twin-engine light transport aircraft. The Soviet-designed Antonov An-26 turboprop crashed into a rice field south of the capital during a morning training flight.

Vietnam buys most of its military hardware from its cold war ally Russia. Reports say that much of its military equipment dates back more than 20 years.

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