A Dutch army helicopter crashed on Sunday afternoon after taking off from the Netherlands Antilles island Aruba, killing two people, the Defence Ministry said in a statement early Monday.
The NH-90 helicopter was nearing the end of a coast guard patrol near the island and bound for the neighbouring island of Curaçao when it fell into the sea 12 kilometres from the coast of Aruba at around 14:30 Sunday, local time, with four crew members on board.
“Two of the four crew members were killed,” said Dutch army commander Rob Bauer at a press conference in The Hague early Monday morning. Attempts were made to resuscitate the two soldiers, but it was to no avail.
A Coast Guard rescue helicopter with a Department of Defence dive team flew to the scene from Curaçao to try and recover the black box of the aircraft. “The operation is made difficult by strong winds, strong currents and large waves“, said Bauer.
The cause of the accident remains unknown. An investigation will be opened by the Defence Security Inspectorate (IVM). The helicopter was stationed on the Zr.MS Groningen, currently in Curaçao.
The victims are Lieutenant Christine Martens, 34, and Erwin Warnies, 34, tactical coordinator. “The other two crew members are not seriously injured,” said Rob Bauer.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld expressed their condolences. “I think that everyone is shocked at Defense, in the Netherlands. We sympathise with the family and loved ones. Truly terrible news,” Rutte said to RTL News.
We zijn diep getroffen door het noodlottige vliegongeval dat gisteravond op veel te jonge leeftijd de levens heeft geëist van collega’s Christine en Erwin. Het hele Defensie Helikopter Commando leeft intens mee met hun geliefden, families, vrienden en naaste collega's. https://t.co/jUr2MsweUe
— DHC Luchtmacht (@dhcluchtmacht) July 20, 2020