Dutch Ministry of Defense reported a crash involving a NH90 maritime combat helicopter has claimed the lives of two Dutch naval officers.
Chief of Defense, Admiral Rob Bauer stated at a press conference in The Hague that a NH90 combat helicopter crashed into the sea, 12.5 km (7.77 miles) off the coast of the island of Aruba claiming the lives two crew members, 34- year-old pilot lieutenant Christine Martens and tactical coordinator lieutenant Erwin Warnies. Two other naval crew members on board escaped without serious injury. Families of the victims have been informed by the Ministry of Defense.
Admiral Bauer has grounded the rest of the Dutch military’s fleet of nineteen remaining NH90 helicopter pending further investigation.
The NH90 helicopter was nearing the end of a routine coast guard patrol surveillance flight when it crashed into the sea at 20:30 Dutch time on Sunday. The cause of the crash is currently unknown.
The NH90 maritime combat helicopter is part of the HNLMS Groningen navy patrol ship deployed to Dutch overseas territory of Curaçao to support counter narcotics and fisheries missions. A coast guard helicopter and Netherlands defence diving teams are helping the patrol ship to secure the wreckage. Dutch Ministry of Defence released images of the helicopter wreckage floating upside down with the emergency floatation system (EFS) above surface.
Reports stated that two of the four inflatable floatation devices have since deflated causing the aircraft to sink. The flight data recorder was recovered before the aircraft sank. The Netherlands Defence Safety Inspectorate is expected to conduct the crash investigation.
Defense Minister, Ank Bijleveld has offered his condolences to the families of the victims. Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte was shocked and ‘deeply troubled’ by the crash and expressed condolences.
The NH90, manufactured by NHIndustries based in Aix en Provence, France has not made an immediate comment following the crash. NHIndustries is a joint venture of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker Aerostructures.
Defence Aviation sympathizes with the families, friends and colleagues of the deceased.
A condolence register is available at www.defensie.nl