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Two Dutch naval officers were killed on July 19 when the NH90 helicopter in which they were flying crashed near the Caribbean island of Aruba.
Flight operations for all 19 remaining NH90 helicopters in the Dutch fleet are suspended until further notice, Rebecca van Geel, a spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of DefenCe Helicopter Command, told Vertical in an email.
Both 34-year-old pilot Lt. Christine Martens and 33-year-old tactical coordinator Lt. Erwin Warnies were killed in the crash that occurred at the end of a Coastguard patrol, according to a statement from the Netherlands Ministry of Defence.
Chief of Defence Admiral Rob Bauer announced the deaths at a press conference in The Hague. The families of the victims have been notified by the Ministry of Defence.
Two other crew members escaped without serious injury.
Another Coastguard helicopter and a Netherlands naval diving team initially helped the ship to secure the NH90 wreckage. Photos released by the Dutch Ministry of Defence showed the wreckage floating upside down under the buoyancy provided by the helicopter’s emergency flotation system (EFS).
Two of the four inflatable floats have since deflated, causing the aircraft to sink, according to reports. The onboard flight data recorder was recovered before the aircraft sank, according to a Ministry of Defence spokesperson.
The NH90, developed by NHI Industries, a joint venture of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker Aerostructures, was flying from the patrol ship HNLMS Groningen. The ship is deployed to the Dutch overseas territory of Curaçao to help support counter-narcotics and fisheries missions.
The Netherlands Defence Safety Inspectorate is expected to conduct an investigation.
An online book of condolence for the crew has been opened on www.defensie.nl.