Togolese Sports Minister Richard Attipoe was among the members of a delegation of sports officials from Togo killed aboard a passenger helicopter that crashed in Sierra Leone, officials said on Monday.
At least 21 people, most of them Togolese, were killed when the Russian-made Mi-8 helicopter operated by Paramount Airlines exploded and crashed late on Sunday at Lungi international airport, 13 km (8 miles) north of Freetown.Initial reports had put the number of dead at 22, but Sierra Leone officials said the Russian pilot of the helicopter had survived. The cause of the accident was not immediately known.
The Togolese sports delegation had chartered the helicopter to return to the airport after attending an African Nations Cup soccer qualifying game played in the capital Freetown on Sunday between Sierra Leone and Togo. The visiting team had won 1-0.
Spokesmen for the Togolese Football Federation and the Togolese Olympic Committee confirmed Attipoe was among those killed. Togo's government Web site also reported the news.
No players of the Togo national soccer team were among the victims. They had been waiting to take the next helicopter flight to Lungi airport.
Paramount Airlines is one of two commercial companies that run helicopter services between Freetown and Lungi airport, ferrying passengers in a 7-minute flight over the Sierra Leone river.
The alternative slower route is to use rusting river ferries or local.