Updated July. 18, 2014 06:02
A firefighting helicopter crashed Thursday, killing five on board. It was returning from search operations for 11 people still missing from the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster. An A365-N3 helicopter of the Gangwon Province Fire Headquarters crashed onto the sidewalk in an apartment complex in Gwangju, southern Korea at 10:53 a.m. on Thursday.
In this accident, pilot Jeong Seong-cheol, assistant pilot Park In-don, maintenance engineer Ahn Byeong-gook, rescue operations personnel Shin Yeong-ryong, and firefighter Lee Eun-gyo were killed. Their remains have been placed at a nearby hospital. A female high school student, identified by her family name Park, who was nearby on the ground at the time of the accident, sustained an injury from being hit by a fragment of the helicopter on her leg and is receiving treatment at a hospital.
The crashed helicopter reportedly collided almost at a right angle onto the sidewalk making a large noise on a crossroad of the apartment complex, the site of which was surrounded by apartment buildings, a school, and a shopping mall. The site of the crash is a mere 10 meters from a unit of Buyeong apartment complex and just 20 meters from Seongdeok Middle School. The apartment complex comprises six buildings, with 449 households. Had it crashed onto the buildings or the school, the tragedy could have been far greater.
The helicopter had traveled between Gwangju Airport and the area in the sea where the Sewol ferry sank and conducted search operations in five-day spurts beginning April 29. Having been deployed from Monday, the helicopter departed from Gwangju Airport at 8:47 a.m. Thursday and arrived at the Jindo area where the search is going on for the missing of the sunken Sewol ferry, but rain and heavy fog made it return to the airstrip in about 40 minutes.
Shin Yeong-ryong called the Gangwon Fire Headquarters from his mobile phone at 10:25 a.m. and reported that due to rain, it was difficult to access the accident area and thus would return to Gangneung, Gangwon Province. The helicopter crashed four minutes after taking off from Gwangju airport at 10:49 a.m.