Helicopter crash kills 11 Turkish soldiers, including army corps commander, officers

(Updates with defence minister comments on likely cause of crash in eighth and ninth paragraph.)

A Turkish military helicopter crashed after taking off from the eastern province of Bingöl, killing at least eleven soldiers and injuring four others, the Defence Ministry announced late on Thursday. It was en route to the neighbouring Bitlis province.

The Cougar helicopter lost contact with the ground at 2:25 p.m. local time, 30 minutes after it took off. Drones sent to investigate discovered the crash site soon after, the ministry said in a statement.

Rescue efforts continued, the ministry added.

Among the eleven soldiers was Elazığ 8th Army Corps Commander, Lieutenant General Osman Erbaş, according to İhlas News Agency, which said the crash occurred on the edge of Mount Nemrut.

The German-French-made Cougar helicopters have been involved in three other accidents since they entered the Turkish army's inventory in 1996, resulting in the death of 28 soldiers before Thursday's latest accident, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported

Altınbaş University faculty member Eray Güçlüer said in a televised debate that preliminary findings hinted at a technical failure as cause of the crash.

“The pilot figured out the failure and attempted to land,” Güçlüer said on CNN Türk. “It was a better than normal landing under the circumstances, but it was bad for the people in the helicopter.”

In a statement, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said the crash appeared to be the result of a sudden change in weather, state-run Anadolu agency reported on Friday.

"According to initial information and the testimony of witnesses, it is believed the accident occurred due to the adverse weather conditions,” he said.

An investigation to identify the exact cause of the crash was underway, he said.

The names and ranks of the soldiers who lost their lives are as follows:

Lieutenant General Osman Erbaş

Artillery Staff Sergeant Nazmi Yılmaz

Colonel Şentürk Aydınyer

Major Alptekin Köprülü

Captain Salih Sarıoğlu

Captain Ender Uzunçakmak

Command Sergeant Major Mehmet Demir

Technical Sergeant Ömer Umulu

Specialist Sergeant Hakan Gül

Captain Tayfun Kureş

Captain Gökhan Uysal

Staff Sergeant Şükrü Karadirek

Specialist Sergeant Tolga Demirci

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