One Of Two Americans Reported Killed In Crash Of Army Helicopter
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) _ A Surinamese army helicopter piloted by an American and carrying another American crewman crashed near the border with French Guiana, killing the pilot, according to the army and a survivor.
An army spokesman, who refused to give his name, on Friday identified the pilot as Billy Pearson. The helicopter mechanic, who appeared in a television interview from his hospital bed, identified himself as Lymm Bevan and said he was an American.
Neither the hometowns of the two nor Bevan’s condition were provided.
The U.S. Embassy said it could not confirm the death or that Americans were aboard the helicopter, but said it was looking into the report.
According to the army spokesman, the helicopter was on a reconnaisance mission when it crashed from a mechanical failure Tuesday night.
Rebels led by former army Pvt. Ronny Brunswijk who are trying to overthrow the government of Lt. Col. Desi Bouterse often clash with government troops in the jungle region where the crash occurred.
The army spokesman said the Americans, whom he believed to be Vietnam veterans, had been hired by the government. He said they were aboard a Bell helicopter, one of three helicopters owned by the army. The two others are French-made Allouttes.
Bevan said in a television interview Thursday night that four Surinamese soldiers were also aboard the helicopter.
Lying on his back with his eyes completely bandaged, Bevan appeared to be in pain during the interview broadcast by the Suriname Television Foundation.
He said that before the crash, he heard an explosion and the craft’s motor failed when it was about 300 feet above the ground. The pilot tried to land, said Bevan, but the helicopter overshot the nearest clearing and hovered about 30 feet above the ground before going down.
According to the Suriname News Agency, the five men were flying between Paramaribo, the capital, and the border, where Brunswijk’s forces have a base on an island in the Maroni River that divides Suriname and French Guiana.
During a news conference Thursday, interim Foreign Minister Ali Mahomed reported the helicopter crash and said the survivors were being treated at the Academic Hospital in Paramaribo.
Suriname, a tropical nation of about 400,000 people on South America’s northeastern coast, gained its independence in 1975. Five years later, the military seized control of the government.