Fort Portal helicopter crash: UPDF reveals two people were on board

Residents inspect the wreckage of the UPDF helicopter that crashed onto a house near Saaka Airfield in Fort Portal City on September 24, 2022. PHOTO | ALEX ASHABA

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesperson, Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, yesterday revealed that the Mi-24 helicopter that crashed in Fort Portal on Saturday  had two people on board. 

He said the helicopter from Ssaka Airfield was heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the UPDF is currently fighting the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in a joint operation with the Congolese army. 

“This is not a passenger helicopter. It was a fighter helicopter. It had only a pilot and co-pilot and it was heading to DRC,” he said. 

 The UPDF has started investigations to ascertain the cause of the crash. 

The UPDF Mountain Division spokesperson, Maj Peter Mugisa, said their technical team is still investigating to ascertain the cause of the crash but said the team is also assessing the magnitude of damage. 

“On Monday our technicians managed to remove the helicopter from the scene where it crashed and took it to Ssaka Airfield where it is going to be repaired. Our team, which is verifying the damage, is on the ground making an assessment. They are also assessing how they are going to compensate affected people,” he said. 

The UPDF soldiers commanded by Maj Gen Kayanja Muhanga joined DRC army on November 30, 2021 to fight ADF and other rebel groups in the joint operation code-named Operation Shujaa.

Maj Mugisa said the crashed helicopter was among those that they were using in Operation Shujaa and said preliminary findings show that it had technical fault in the wiring system which resulted in the crash. 

He said the owner of the house that the helicopter crashed into, Ms Peruth Kabarwani, has been relocated. 

“The woman whose house was damaged, we are going to reconstruct it, because when we were trying to remove the helicopter we demolished the entire house because the rotor blades of the helicopter could not start,” he said.

Mr Joseph Tumukugize, a businessmen who witnessed the crash, said early in the morning of Saturday at around 9am, two of the three helicopters that were parked at Ssaka Airfied lifted off. 

He said at around 9:30am, the remaining helicopter set off but returned a few minutes later. 

“It went up to Mountains of the Moon University and turned back. It failed to land at the airfield and ended up crashing onto the house,” he said. 

Ms Kabarwani said: “I was inside the house alone, I heard people making an alarm. I moved outside to see, I found the helicopter had destroyed my kitchen and part of my house.” 

 Ms Mary Mbabazi, the daughter of Kabarwani, said on December 30, 2021, another helicopter that was taking off from the same airfield also damaged Ms Kabarwani’s house and blew off the iron sheets of the local church. 

“We reported the matter to all concerned authorities, UPDF officials called us and promised to compensate us but up to now we are still waiting and again the same incident has happened,”  she said.

Mr Jeroresi Insigoma, a resident, said the helicopter crash also destroyed part of his banana plantation and other fruit trees. 

“This time we need compensation. It is not the first time our properties are being destroyed by a helicopter landing on the airfield, it’s true we are neighbouring the airfield but the land belongs to us, we have nowhere to go,” he said.

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