5 die in Angola chopper crash

2007-11-18 09:34

Johannesburg - Five people have died in a helicopter crash in Angola, BHP Billiton announced on Saturday.

The crash occurred late on Friday, about 80km from the Alto Cuilo Camp diamond exploration facility in north eastern Angola, the company said in a statement.

"...Two helicopters struck bad weather as they were transporting personnel to the Alto Cuilo Camp. Both helicopters were forced to land. When the weather cleared the helicopters took off again.

"Shortly thereafter communication between the two helicopters was lost."

It said one helicopter tried to re-establish communication with the other, but when it could not, returned to an agreed rendezvous where it remained overnight.

A search for the second helicopter started at daybreak on Saturday and led to the location of its wreckage. There were no survivors.

The dead were: BHP Billiton Angola Chief Operating Officer David Hopgood, an Australian; Angola Technical Services Operations Manager Kevin Ayre, a Brit; Wild Dog Helicopters pilot Kottie Breedt; Brit Guy Sommerfield, of MMC; and Namibian Louwrens Prinsloo, of Prinsloo Drilling.

Their next-of-kin had been contacted, the company said.

BHP Billiton's said its focus now was on supporting their families and seeing to the safety and well-being of staff at its Angolan operations - which had been suspended.

An investigation into the crash was being conducted, it said.

BHP Billiton is the world's largest diversified natural resources company, employing 38 000 people across 100 operations in 25 countries.