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Police officer dies in Free State helicopter crash

A police officer was killed and eight others seriously injured in a South African Air Force helicopter crash in the Free State on Wednesday, the military said. Seven other people suffered minor injuries.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said in a statement that the Oryx helicopter was carrying 19 people when it crashed at about 11.40am near the Lesotho border.

On board were 14 police officers, two SANDF members and three South African Air Force helicopter crew. A police officer died on the scene.

The injured were airlifted to Bloemfontein’s Pelonomi Hospital.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Sam Makhele earlier said the aircraft was patrolling the Lesotho border when it crashed about 30km south of Wepener.

A South African Press Association reporter at the scene said the helicopter fell on its side on a small hill about 20m into the Lesotho side of the border, marked by fence posts.

The tail had broken off and was lying several metres from the chopper. Other pieces of wreckage, including a set of wheels, were scattered about 60m around the fuselage of the helicopter.

The entire area had been cordoned off with yellow police tape.

South African police had left the scene by 5pm, and three Lesotho defence-force members were standing guard. Soldiers were also to keep watch over the crash site through the night. — Sapa

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