- Prince Harding, the Sierra Leonean Transport Minister, has been asked to stay away from office pending investigations into the cause of the last weekend’s helicopter crash which claimed the lives of 22 people, including the Togolese Sports Minister, Richard Attipoe.
Paramount Airlines helicopter burst into flames as it was about to land at the main airport. Except a Ukrainian pilot, who reportedly jumped out of the helicopter, there was no survivor.
The airline has been banned from flying to Europe mainly because of safety reasons.
Two top aviation executives have also been suspended from work. Besides, all commercial helicopters have been grounded.
The government has declared three days of mourning in the country. Togolese are waiting for the remains of their dead citizens to be flown to Lome today.
The Sierra Leonean crash followed that of the Kenyan Airways that crashed shortly after it took off in Cameroon airport and there were no survivors.
Aviation safety and security have over the years become the main challenge of African airlines.
It was reported that the latest crash happened after the helicopter had grounded without taking into consideration safety checks. Minister Harding said he was not faulty all and even promised to cooperate with investigators.
But the office of the President issued a statement saying it has launched investigations into how the airline was allowed to resume operations in the absence of respect for safety checks.
The helicopter crashed as it was carrying passengers who returned from watching an African Nations qualifiers in which Togo defeated Sierra Leone a goal to nil.
The seven minute flight to Freetown was bankrolled by the Togolese passengers who chartered the helicopter. Located across the bay from Freetown, the area is accessible only by flights or ferries.
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