Kin of Nepali victims of US chopper crash seek compensation

KATHMANDU: The families of five Nepali civilians killed in a US military helicopter crash on an earthquake relief mission last month demanded compensation today, saying it took weeks to get confirmation of their relatives’ deaths.

Authorities initially said six US Marines and two Nepali soldiers were on the UH-1 “Huey” chopper that crashed on May 12 in Nepal’s northeastern mountains. The wreckage was found after days of intense search.

After DNA tests and further investigation by both countries, Nepali Army announced on Friday that five more people — local villagers being transported to a hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the devastating April earthquake that killed thousands — were on board.

The remains of the villagers were flown back to Nepal yesterday and were stored at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, where relatives of the civilian victims gathered today.

“We are demanding that the United States provide money as compensation or insurance to the families of those killed in the helicopter crash,” said Purna Bahadur Khatri, whose brother Shiva Bahadur was killed in the crash.

Khatri said they will not take the remains for cremation until the issue was resolved, and if necessary protest outside the US Embassy.

“It took weeks for the authorities to even admit that our missing family members were killed in the crash. We have not had any contract from the US government or our government or been informed whether we were going to get compensation,” Khatri said.

Amir Katwal, who lost his father in the crash, said he loaded his father and other people injured in the earthquake in the helicopter, which appeared to be overloaded. “Two soldiers got off and loaded the people, and they all got inside the helicopter that had no seats and was crowded. I was just happy that my wounded father was going to a hospital,” said Katwal.

Four of the Marines were part of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California. Two were combat cameramen.

The cause of the crash has not been determined.