THE Cambodian military has blamed over-loading for the April 1 crash on Preah Vihear
temple that wrecked one of its two Mi-8 helicopters (pictured below).
HELICOPTER CRASH, PREAH VIHEAR, APRIL 1
Thirty-seven people, including 11 foreign journalists and a British diplomat,
had crammed into the helicopter. But the reason for the over-crowding was more that
the military had charged journalists $40 a head for the ride.
The normal payload is just 15 people.
The fattened helicopter foundered on its approach to the temple steppes, bumping
the ground twice before tumbling on its side, breaking up and in doing so detonating
Everyone inside was bruised, and there were a few black eyes and perhaps a cracked
rib or two, but little worse than that. What was amazing that anyone survived at
all, and that the helicopter did not burn, and that all the grenades and rockets
the soldiers were wearing didn't detonate.
A second smaller helicopter immediately ferried out British First Secretary Lawrence
Pickup, and later another chopper picked up some Cambodian soldiers.
The journalists, who had to pick their way through the minefield with Khmer Rouge
escorts, carefully stepping on rocks and boulders, spent the night at the temple
before returning to Siem Reap the following day.
They moaned they had no beer. And during the night one woman journalist gave up the
only blanket available on the mountain to a male colleague who complained of being
a bit cold. The Khmer Rouge couldn't understand that.
There have been at least four helicopter crashes since the arrival of UNTAC in 1993.
None have claimed any lives.