10 dead in mid-air collision of military helicopters at Malaysian naval base

Iman Muttaqin Yusof and Nisha David
Kuala Lumpur
10 dead in mid-air collision of military helicopters at Malaysian naval base Officials including Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin and Royal Malaysian Navy officers examine the wreckage of an AgustaWestland 139 helicopter after it crashed following a mid-air collision with another navy helicopter, at a stadium at the Lumut Naval Base in Perak, Malaysia, April 23, 2024.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

The Malaysian Navy will set up a panel to investigate what caused two of its helicopters to collide and crash during an aerial rehearsal on Tuesday in Perak state, killing all 10 service members aboard, the nation’s defense chief said.

A video circulating on social media showed the helicopters – an AgustaWestland (AW) and a Fennec – colliding mid-air near the Lumut Naval Base before they crashed during a practice flight on Tuesday morning for the military branch’s 90th anniversary celebration. The event, which was scheduled for the coming weekend, was canceled in light of the disaster.

“The Royal Malaysian Navy will establish an investigation board, supported by the air force and the Directorate General Technical Airworthiness, to help identify the cause of the crash,” Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin told reporters at the naval base on Tuesday evening.

“We will also cancel the [entire] ceremony and replace it with prayer ceremonies on the wishes of Selangor state Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, who is the navy’s captain-in-chief,” he said.

The Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department in Perak had received an emergency call about the crash at 9:50 a.m.

A 21-second video clip of the crash went viral on social media.

The helicopters were among seven taking part in the rehearsal, Khaled said, adding that Tuesday morning’s aerial rehearsal was the third. One of the helicopters plunged into a swimming pool while the other crashed at a stadium within the military compound.

Khaled said three servicewomen were among the 10 killed. The victims had been based in Lumut and Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, a Malaysian state on Borneo island. 

“We will assist the victim’s families in terms of donation, burial and the families will decide where the bodies are to be buried,” he said.

An earlier navy statement said a crew of three was on the Fennec helicopter while the others were on the AW-139 helicopter.

The wreckage of the AgustaWestland139 helicopter is seen at the Lumut Naval Base in Perak, Malaysia, April 23, 2024. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

King Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar delivered a message to the victims’ families.

“Condolences to those who have left us forever. May they be placed among the believers and also the martyrs.

“I also want the Malaysian armed forces to conduct a thorough investigation to obtain full information about this incident,” he said.

Abdul Manan Mansor, president of the Malaysian Pilots Association, raised concerns about the crash.

“[With] selected competent pilots, heavy pre-flight briefing, and a good ground controller, [it is avoidable],” he told BenarNews. “The incident occurred due to the pilots lacking a proper understanding of what the helicopter fly-over formation should do.”

Last month, all aboard a Malaysian coast guard helicopter were rescued after it crashed into the Strait of Malacca.

In 2023, a politician and nine others were killed when a private jet veered off course and crashed onto a highway on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.


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