It is with great regret that BHP Billiton confirms a helicopter crash in which five people have died in Angola. The crash occurred late yesterday afternoon (Friday 16 November) approximately 80km from the Alto Cuilo Camp, a diamonds exploration facility in north eastern Angola.
Late yesterday afternoon (Friday 16 November 2007), two helicopters struck bad weather as they were transporting personnel to the Alto Cuilo Camp. Both helicopters were forced to land. When the weather cleared the helicopters took off again. Shortly thereafter communication between the two helicopters was lost. The first helicopter tried to re-establish communication with the second, and when it was not able to do so, returned to the agreed rendezvous point where they had taken off after the storm. The second helicopter remained there overnight and at daybreak this morning, the search commenced. The wreckage of the second helicopter was located. Tragically, none of the passengers had survived the crash.
The deceased are David Hopgood (Australian; Chief Operating Officer – BHP Billiton Angola), Kevin Ayre (British; Operations Manager – Angola Technical Services), Kottie Breedt (South African; Pilot - Wild Dog Helicopters), Guy Summerfield (British; MMC) and Louwrens Prinsloo (Namibian; Prinsloo Drilling). Next of kin have been contacted.
BHP Billiton's current focus is the safety and well being of the staff at our Angolan operations and the provision of support to the families of the deceased. All operations in Angola have been suspended and an investigation has been launched. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with the families, loved ones and colleagues of the deceased at this time.