KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Eight soldiers suffered minor injuries Thursday after a Canadian Chinook helicopter was forced to make a hard landing and burst into flames near a remote village southwest of Kandahar city.
There were five crew members and 15 passengers on board the Chinook CH147 that landed near the village of Armarah, about 20 kilometres away from Afghanistan’s second-largest city. The five crew members included two pilots and three door gunners.
“Eight people were injured in the hard landing but they were minor injuries, fortunately, said Maj. Daryl Morrell, senior public affairs officer for Task Force Kandahar.
The Taliban took immediate responsibility. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed insurgents shot down the aircraft with a rocket.
Morrell refused to give credence to the Taliban claims, saying investigators need to look at what caused the landing and damage to the aircraft.
“Right now, as with all instances where you have an aircraft that has to have a hard landing, we’ve got a team that’s going to go out, look into it and determine the causes and the reasons for that,” Morrell told reporters.
No further information on the cause is expected immediately, as it’s likely the investigation will take days to complete.
“We’re still looking into the condition of the aircraft. It had a hard landing so there’s going to be some damage, but we don’t have any idea as to the scale of that,” Morrell added.
A shopkeeper in the area said he heard a loud bang, then saw smoke and the helicopter falling into a field. A witness said the helicopter was still on fire a couple of hours after it was forced down.
The Chinook landed near the village of Armarah in the Panjwaii district, a region where Canada has carried out an ongoing battle with the Taliban for the past four years.
The site of the landing was immediately secured by Afghan National Police and NATO’s ISAF forces. “We do have people on site. The site is secure,” said Morrell.
It’s not the first time a Canadian helicopter has crashed in Afghanistan.
On July 6, 2009, Master Cpl. Pat Audet, 38, of Montreal, and Cpl. Martin Joannette, 25, of St-Calixte, Que., died in Zabul province when their Griffon CH-146 helicopter crashed on takeoff. Three other Canadian Forces members were injured, one of them seriously. A British officer was also killed in the crash.
Last year’s crash was believed to have occurred when the chopper clipped a security wall while trying to manoeuvre in a blinding cloud of dust.
The six aging CH-47D Chinooks, purchased from the United States with a price tag of $292 million a couple of years ago, have done yeoman’s service since they began flying in Afghanistan early last year.