Skip to main content

A Canadian helicopter sits on it's side after it crashed on landing in the Panjwaii District of Afghanistan on Monday May 16, 2011.Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press

Four Canadian soldiers were injured, one of them seriously, when a Chinook helicopter crashed on landing under moonlight in a remote part of Panjwaii district in southern Afghanistan early Monday morning.

The chopper, carrying five crew and about 25 soldiers along with a Canadian Press journalist, flipped onto its side, throwing men and equipment into a mad tangle of bodies, weapons and gear.

"The noise was just horrifying," said one soldier of the hull and rotors scraping.

Despite the smell of fuel, there was no fire but the helicopter was severely damaged. The haze and darkness were believed to have caused the crash and there was no enemy activity.

"I just wanted to get out because I could smell gasoline," said Master Bombadier Nick Gurton.

Many of those aboard spent several terrifying minutes trapped in the confusion but everyone was finally able to make their way from the stricken craft and into the dusty moonlit night safely.

Soldiers immediately began setting up a security cordon, and feverishly went to work in near darkness, using only small flash lights or headlamps on the injured, one of whom screamed and thrashed in agony.

"We're just lucky we did not come under (enemy) contact," another soldier said.

Medevac helicopters arrived and three of the injured were flown to hospital at Kandahar Airfield. The fourth was treated at the crash site.

The two-rotor Chinook was attempting to land on a dry river bed in the darkness, when it hit hard on one side before crashing onto its side.

"I don't blame the pilot at all," a soldier said of the difficult landing.

The helicopter, along with a second Chinook that landed safely, was deploying troops on an operation when the crash occurred.

The mission was called off as a result of the mishap.

"I guess we're not saving Afghanistan today," said Warrant Officer Steve (Scott) Scotto d'Anielo.

The second Chinook, with the pilots from the first aboard, departed for the base. A Chinook was called in, arriving as day broke, to ferry the rest of the passengers back to a forward operating base.

Soldiers and tanks called in for support formed a ring to ensure the insurgents could not get to the damaged helicopter.

As the shock wore off and the injured were safely taken care of, soldiers finally expressed relief at making it out safely.

"I survived a crash," one said.

Captain Cory Durant, who was promoted five days ago, said he didn't expect to die in a chopper crash so soon after his promotion.

The Canadian Press reporter had to struggle to free himself initially, but only suffered some bruises and scrapes along with damaged camera equipment.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct