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Sierra Leone helicopter crash kills 21

world Updated: Jun 04, 2007 13:46 IST

AFP
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Togo's sports minister and 20 other people were killed when a privately- owned shuttle helicopter they were flying in crashed at Sierra Leone's Lungi international airport, sporting and airport officials said on Monday.

Sports Minister Atipe Kwako was among the 18 Togolese nationals on board the Paramount Airlines helicopter which caught fire while descending in preparation for landing at Lungi and crashed on the tarmac around 8:30 pm on Sunday.

One of three Russian crew members survived the crash, and was said to be in critical condition.

"It was shocking to see the helicopter disintegrating," senior airport maintenance officer Alfred Yelinkeh told AFP.

1The Paramount Airlines helicopter, owned by a Nigerian businessman, operates a seven-minutes shuttle service between the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown and the airport.

Sierra Leone Football Association public relations officer Chernor Ojuku Sesay said 18 Togolese officials and supporters died in the crash.

The rest of the victims were crew members.

"From what we hear, most of the victims were burnt beyond recognition," Sesay told AFP in Freetown.

The victims were using the helicopter to return to the airport after attending the match in which the Togo national football team beat Sierra Leone 1-0 in an African cup of Nations elimination match.

The team was in Freetown awaiting the next shuttle when the accident took place.