A Vietnamese military helicopter on a parachute training mission crashed close to the Vietnamese capital on Monday, killing 16 people on board and wounding five others, officials and state-controlled media said.
The Russian-made MI-171 helicopter came down about 15 minutes after take-off in a small village in Thach That district about 40km west of Hanoi.
A doctor at a military hospital said 16 people were killed and five others were being treated for serious burn injuries.
He didn’t give his name because he wasn’t authorised to speak to the media.
Reports in the state-controlled media said 16 of those on board were parachute recruits from the air force’s helicopter regiment. There were also two trainers and three crew members on board.
“There were several people on the plane. We are examining the crash site now and the cause of the accident,” a military source said on condition of anonymity.
The incident happened during parachute training exercises, he added.
The helicopter appeared to run into difficulties before crashing into the ground and bursting into flames, a witness said.
“I heard an aircraft making a strange noise ... I ran outside and the aircraft exploded, there was a huge blaze then a plume of smoke,” said one middle-aged local resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The aircraft was flying low, it hit the ground and exploded at the same time,” she said, adding it had looked like the helicopter was struggling to stay airborne before it crash-landed.
“It seemed like the pilot wanted to divert the aircraft from hitting the local market and houses, so it ran into that field,” she said, gesturing towards the cordoned-off crash site.
Local officials said the plane crashed in a sparsely-populated rural suburb of the capital.
The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper reported it smashed through the fence of one local property before bursting into flames.
“I heard someone shouting for help ... there was another explosion and a lot of black smoke. Local residents rushed to help,” the female local resident said.
In 2008 five Vietnamese military pilots were killed when their twin-engine light transport aircraft crashed on the outskirts of Hanoi.
The Soviet-designed Antonov An-26 turboprop crashed into a rice field south of the capital during a morning training flight.
The MI-171 helicopter is primarily a transport aircraft, but there is also a gunship version.
Vietnam buys most of its military hardware from Russia, the country’s cold war ally. Much of it dates back more than 20 years.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse