PHAYAO – The bodies of nine officials have been retrieved from an army helicopter that crashed in Phayao province after experiencing a mechanical problem.
A combined force of soldiers, police and rescue staff rushed to a paddy field in Mueang district of Phayao following a report that a Bell 212 helicopter belonging to the Royal Thai Army had crashed and burned at the site. After inspecting the scene and trying hard to put out the fire, the authorities found no survivors but managed to bring out all nine bodies of the officials on board the stricken helicopter.
According to eye witnesses, the helicopter departed from a nearby army camp and was in the air for only five minutes before the engine appeared to malfunction and burst into flames, leading to the deadly drop. The nine officials had reportedly been on duty in Phayao and were heading to Chiang Rai for another mission.
Among the crash victims was Deputy Commander of the Third Army Region Maj Gen Songphol Thongchin. All of the bodies have been sent to Phayao Hospital for autopsies.
Gen Prawit, who is currently in Myanmar for the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Retreat, gave an interview regarding the recent helicopter crash in Phayao, saying he was informed of the tragedy by the Army Chief. He pointed out that the fallen vehicle was one of over 40 helicopters of the Bell 212 model owned by the Royal Thai Army.
The Defense Minister said specialists at the Army Aviation Center are urgently investigating the cause of the accident. He admitted the Bell 212 choppers have been in operation for a long period of time but insisted that maintenance works are conducted on a regular basis, with engine replacements taking place as scheduled.
In the meantime, since the crashed helicopter belonged to the Third Army Region, the Army Aviation Center has ordered the unit to keep its two remaining Bell 212 helicopters grounded for the time being as a safety precaution. The two vehicles are located in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces.