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Ten Confirmed Dead In UN Helicopter Crash In Nepal

Ten confirmed dead in UN helicopter crash in Nepal

4 March 2008 - The United Nations confirmed today that seven of its staff and three crew members died when one of its helicopters crashed in eastern Nepal yesterday.

The flight, which left the Maoist cantonment site at Sindhuli and was bound for the capital, Kathmandu, crashed in Ramechhap district on Monday afternoon.

In a statement released today, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) confirmed that three Nepali UN personnel died in the crash. They are Bhim Bahadur Gurung and Rabindra Khaniya, liaison officer and language assistant with the UNMIN Arms Monitoring Office, and Rajesh Maharjan, an UNMIN vehicle mechanic.

In addition, four international arms monitors - from Gambia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Sweden - died in the accident, as well as three crew members, two from Russia and one from Belarus.

"These colleagues lost their lives while serving the United Nations and the cause of peace in Nepal," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Mr. Ban also expressed his appreciation to the Nepalese authorities for their assistance provided to UNMIN in recovering the remains of the victims, and for the many expressions of sympathy the mission has received from people in Nepal.

Echoing Mr. Ban's comments, his Special Representative in Nepal paid tribute to his fallen colleagues. "They died while working to sustain peace in Nepal, and UNMIN will continue in the midst of this tragedy to apply its best efforts to this purpose," said Ian Martin, who is also head of UNMIN.

The Mission is in the process of recovering the remains of the deceased so that they can be returned to Kathmandu as early as possible. In addition, an UNMIN team has arrived at the crash site, some 85 kilometres east of Kathmandu, to assess the situation. Investigation of the accident is primarily for Nepal's Civil Aviation Authority, with the participation of UNMIN and the Russian aircraft company.

In a statement issued today, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim voiced his sadness at the tragedy, which he said "is once again a sad reminder of the fact that UN personnel have to operate in dangerous conditions and face a multitude of risks during their daily work.

"For this, they deserve the full support of United Nations Member States," he added.

ENDS

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