Two leads are currently being investigated by Botswana police to establish what caused the crash of the Botswana Police Service helicopter last week that killed all three officers on board according to sources close to the investigation .
A source at Botswana Police has confirmed that questions over the competence of Superintendent Keokeditswe Sobatha who was said to be the lead pilot have come up especially as she has had a near crash with the craft which lead to her being grounded for a while. It is further reported that she struggled through her training.
Airbus Helicopters Head of External Communications, Corporate Communications in France, Stéphane Chéry however declined to comment on training saying it would be against company policy to discuss the performances of individuals involved in this accident as it forms part of the evidence in the hands of the investigating authority.
Chery was however confident the pilots underwent proper training.
“Before their licenses are endorsed to enable them to operate a particular model of helicopter, all pilots who undergo training by Airbus Helicopters or its regional entity, Eurocopter Southern Africa Ltd, must pass both the theoretical and practical elements of the type-conversion course. The courses are designed to stringent international standards . Customers send licensed helicopter pilots to Airbus Helicopters (or Eurocopter Southern Africa Ltd) for conversion training to learn the specific systems and procedures for operating a specific model of helicopter,” said Chéry.
Chery was skeptical that a technical fault would have been responsible as crashes brought about by technical failure were rare though he confirmed that their technical advisors will be assisting with the investigations. “In this case, our investigation technical specialists are en-route. They will provide their support, in an advisory role,” he noted. He said AS350 B3 is fully compliant with the Botswana Police Service requirements and criteria, and hold valid airworthiness certification, which is a validation of the helicopter’s design integrity and safety.
According to the source the poaching activity in the area is another angle being investigated. Suspected poachers were reportedly arrested by local police in possession of suspected buffalo and kudu meat but were later released after interrogations. It is suspected that the three suspected poachers might have had a hand in the crash though poachers in the area are reportedly not as violent as in the Kasane area.
Superintendent Keokeditswe Sobatha, Assistant Superintendent Shepherd Ntombedzi and Inspector Ricardo Modiri Mabotho flew to the Okavango Delta to assist in the investigation as the area in question was not accessible by car.
Officer Commanding No. 5 Senior Superintendent Chabaesele Kesupetse has confirmed that they do ask for helicopter assistance in specific cases where they are unable to travel to certain areas because of the waters. The Gazette can confirm that there were no other cases of poaching in the area in the month of April save for the one at hand.
Botswana police Service Spokesperson Christopher Mbulawa has declined to comment saying the matter was still being investigated.