British soldiers die in helicopter crash

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The Independent Online

Six British soldiers were killed yesterday when a military helicopter crashed in the Czech Republic after appearing to clip a power line during a training exercise.

Six British soldiers were killed yesterday when a military helicopter crashed in the Czech Republic after appearing to clip a power line during a training exercise.

The two air crew and four passengers were travelling in the Army Lynx helicopter when it crashed in a remote valley near the southern town of Namest nad Oslavou, 100 miles south-east of the capital, Prague. They were taking part in an Anglo-Czech military training exercise, codenamed Operation Flying Rhino.

Witnesses said the craft's rotor touched high-voltage power lines before it spun out of control and crashed. Investigators from the Ministry of Defence were working with Czech emergency services at the scene to determine the exact cause of the crash.

"There will be a board of inquiry set up to look at all the circumstances around the incident," a spokesman for the MoD said. "We are awaiting full confirmation of what happened."

The soldiers were part of a British contingency that arrived at the Namest nad Oslavou air base on Monday, at the start of the 10-day exercise. An estimated 450 UK troops based in Germany were believed to be involved in the training programme, which had British and Czech pilots searching for ground targets and simulating attacks from the air. A Czech spokesman said the operation had been put on hold.

The crash is not the first involving Lynxes. At least 15 servicemen have been killed in accidents caused by mechanical malfunctions in the aircraft over the past 15 years.

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