KABUL – A Russian-owned civilian helicopter crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff at southern Afghanistan’s largest NATO base Sunday, killing 16 civilians in the latest in a string of deadly aircraft crashes in the country.
There were no indications that the crash of the Mi-8 helicopter at southern Kandahar Air Field was caused by hostile fire, military officials said. Sixteen people died in the crash, and five were wounded and were treated on the NATO base, said Capt. Glen Parent, a spokesman for the NATO-led force in Kandahar.
No military personnel were wounded or killed, NATO said. Parent said the helicopter burst into flames when it crashed near the runway only moments after takeoff.
The Russian news agency Interfax said the Mi-8 was owned by the Russian air company Vertikal-T. It cited Russian charge d’affaires Andrei Vadov as saying there were no Russians among the 16 killed.
The Mi-8 helicopter can seat up to 24 people, Parent said. Civilian helicopters help ferry civilian contractors and supplies to small military outposts across Afghanistan.
In a second helicopter incident in the country’s east, a U.S. military chopper made an emergency landing in Kunar province, the military said in a statement.
U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker said no enemy fire was reported near the helicopter.
Personnel on the helicopter were taken to a medical facility for treatment, but no other details were released.