World Bulletin / News Desk
Politicians, military officers and thousands others paid their final respects to soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash in the eastern province of Siirt, in an official ceremony held at Diyarbakır's main airport on Sunday.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and many other ministers were present at the ceremony for the 17 soldiers killed while on duty.
The soldiers perished on Saturday when their helicopter crashed in southeastern Turkey, according to Turkish officials. The Sikorsky helicopter reportedly crashed into a mountain called Herekol in the Pervari region of Siirt province due to adverse weather conditions. Siirt Governor Ahmet Aydın said all of the soldiers aboard the helicopter were killed in the crash.
Fourteen of the victims were members of the gendarmerie forces, and the rest were helicopter crew, he said. The soldiers were being transported to a region near the Turkish border with Iraq to help troops in their fight against PKK militants. Aydın said three officers, four noncommissioned officers, one special sergeant and nine privates were killed in the crash.
Following the ceremony, Spc. Sgt. Murat Yıldızhan's body was taken by ambulance to the Çermik district of Diyarbakır to be buried, while the 16 other soldiers' bodies were sent to their hometowns by military cargo plane.
President Abdullah Gül offered his condolences to families of the soldiers on Saturday and noted that they had defied the heavy weather and taken off in the helicopter to help their colleagues.
Talking about the accident at a meeting in Parliament on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said: “One of our military helicopters unfortunately hit a mountain due to a dense fog following heavy rains over the past days in the Pervari region. This is an accident caused completely by a technical failure and weather conditions. We are deeply saddened.”
Witnesses also ruled out the prospects of a PKK attack. Köprüçay neighborhood head F. Mustafa Çiftçi, who stated that the helicopter crashed in an area between the villages of Köprüçay and Bilgili, said there were no clashes in the region.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the United States, has been waging a bloody war in the country's southeast since 1984, killing more than 40,000 people so far.
Çiftçi said the helicopter crashed after it hit a rock ledge at the foot of Herekol. “When we went to the scene of the incident, we saw the wreckage of a helicopter that had hit a ledge 150 meters in size. The helicopter was in pieces and had fallen onto a deep slope. Several helicopters were dispatched to the region after the accident. Soldiers went down to the slope with the help of ropes and retrieved the bodies of the soldiers,” Çiftçi explained.
A similar helicopter accident took place in the Dağlıca neighborhood of Hakkari province on July 22. A Sikorksy helicopter that had taken off from a military base in the Yüksekova district crashed due to a technical failure near Dağlıca, killing four soldiers and injuring eight others.
The helicopter crash in Siirt left heartbreaking stories behind the soldiers killed in the tragedy.
The family of Spc. Sgt. Mesut Şeker (32), who are residents of Konya, was devastated upon learning of the death of their son. Şeker's mother Ayşe said she had a dream a week ago in which she was wearing a wedding dress.
“I wore the wedding dress and took it off. I told myself that a white wedding dress in a dream is a symbol of a shroud. It turned out to be my son's shroud. I had not seen my son for two years, and I have missed him terribly,” she said. Şeker lost his father when he was only 4 years old.
The family of noncommissioned officer Vedat Avcı (25) in Denizli province was overcome by grief when they learned of Avcı's death. The late soldier's uncle said: “What can I say? I offer my condolences to all of Turkey. On the phone, he told us they were going out on a military operation; he did not say anything else.”
Kamer, mother of Halil İbrahim Çelik, another soldier lost in the crash, was rushed to the hospital after she learned about her son's death. Çelik lost his father three months ago.
There was also grief in the house of Lt. Yakup Çınar, who had been a helicopter pilot for the past five years. Çınar married two-and-a-half years ago and leaves behind him a pregnant wife. Spc. Sgt. Ömer Büyükköse, another victim of the helicopter crash, had recently gotten engaged and was to be married 20 days after the tragedy occurred.Last Mod: 11 Kasım 2012, 17:54