“So now will my dad go on duty forever and never come back to visit me?” asked the son of a late pilot who was killed in the crash of military helicopter Mi 171 on Monday morning in Hanoi.
Another child told visitors that he was waiting for his father, Hoang Lai Long, 54, who was returning to take him to his army unit to watch a parachuting practice.
Such innocent questions from children of the victims made the heart-rending loss of 18 soldiers in this week’s copter crash even more painful.
Most of the 21 soldiers aboard the Mi 171 have young children.
Excluding three men who are undergoing extensive treatment at Hospitals 354 and 108 in Hanoi, 10 of the 18 bodies had been identified by late July 8.
Samples of the remaining eight bodies are currently being DNA tested for identification.
Senior lieutenant colonel Hoang Lai Long was the chief pilot of the deadly flight. It has been officially announced that the accident was due to ‘a technical problem’.
Mi 171 crashed on the outskirts of the Vietnamese capital when it was carrying out a parachute training exercise.
During the last minutes of the flight when the chopper was in flames, Long managed to fly it far from a residential area and a crowded market just several meters below before crashing in an empty plot of land to avoid civilian casualties.
Witnesses reported that the helicopter in distress flew below the electricity grid, lower than multi-story houses in the area.
The pilot Long and his crew were successful in avoiding harming the civilians below, but failed to save their own lives.
Long also failed to fulfill his promise to his seven-year-old son to take him to his army unit to watch a parachute training session.
At the collective quarter of Group 15 in Phuc Dong Ward of Hanoi’s Long Bien District, hundreds of colleagues and relatives came to the home of parachuting trainer and captain Nguyen Dao Hong Tam, who lost his life in the accident, to offer their condolences to his family.
Linh, the younger sister of the deceased, said, “Tam has two children.
“The younger child is just over 10 months old and is too young to understand his loss.
“The older child has called his dad many times and asked visitors to dial his telephone number to tell him to come home.”
Relatives and visitors could not hold back their tears upon witnessing the innocence of the young child calling for his father.
Linh added that Tam is her parents’ only son.
At another home in the collective quarter Hoang Van Thai in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District, Ha Thi Khanh – the mother-in-law of the late soldier Le Thanh Viet – was taking care of her two-year-old grandchild as well as her daughter who repeatedly fainted upon hearing the death of her husband.
“The only thing I can do now is encourage her to overcome this loss,” Khanh said calmly.
On July 8, the two-star general Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of the general staff of the the Vietnam People's Army, told local media that investigators have been carrying out checks to identify the exact reasons for the accident.
The black box of the helicopter suffered some damage due to the crash.
The crash took place at 7:53 am (Vietnam time) on Monday in Thach That District, on the outskirts of Hanoi.
Twenty-one people were aboard the Mi 171 helicopter, including a crew of three, two parachuting trainers, and 16 parachuting trainees.