A helicopter crash has claimed the lives of five people as it was heading to a ranch in the US state of New Mexico.
Aboard the helicopter was a key Zimbabwean opposition leader and a Texas-based investor. It has been confirmed by friends and family members that opposition leader Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, had traveled to New Mexico to spend their holiday with a friend and wealthy businessman Charles Burnett III at his ranch.
The five were aboard a Huey UH-1 when it went down after dark on Wednesday. Unfortunately, they all died as revealed by the New Mexico State Police.
Only one person survived, Andra Cobb, who’s the co-pilot's daughter who was in a long-term relationship with Burnett. She was able to escape before the helicopter burst into flames.
Martha Cobb told the Associated Press that her 39-year-old daughter was hospitalized with broken bones.
“She's just very distraught,” the mother said in a telephone interview. “I'm just glad my daughter is OK, but I hate that my husband of 41 years is gone.”
Roy Bennett, 60, treasurer-general of the Morgan Tsvangirai'sMovement for Democratic Change opposition party, won a devoted following of black Zimbabweans for passionately advocating political change.
Reports indicate that despite Bennett being a white man, he spoke fluent Shona, something that drew the wrath of former President Robert Mugabe. Bennett was known as “Pachedu,” meaning “one of us” in Shona and was often called the sharpest thorn in Mugabe's side.
His death has been described by Obert Gutu, spokesman for the MDC-T party, as a “huge and tragic loss.”
The pilots have experienced aviators who would not have taken unnecessary risks in the helicopter. A 911 call from Andra Cobb alerted authorities to the crash, whose cause is under investigation. There was no indication of bad weather that night.