2 Apache pilots killed in Mali

Yesterday, a Royal Netherlands Air Force Apache helicopter crashed during a firing exercise in Mali. Captain René Zeetsen (30) and First Lieutenant Ernst Mollinger (26) died as a result of the crash. Their families have been informed.

Captain René Zeetsen and First Lieutenant Ernst Mollinger

Captain René Zeetsen and First Lieutenant Ernst Mollinger

The helicopter was conducting a firing exercise on ground targets over uninhabited terrain with another Dutch Apache when it crashed. Their colleagues landed immediately and provided first aid. It was found that Captain Zeetsen had not survived the crash. First Lieutenant Mollinger was seriously injured and transferred to a French military hospital in Gao, where he later died of his injuries.

Circumstances

The accident occurred 47 kilometres to the north of the Dutch compound. Immediately after the crash, the crash site was secured by a French attack helicopter. Dutch special forces secured and guarded the site on the ground. An investigation into the cause of the accident is being mounted.

Mission in Mali

The two servicemen belonged to 301 Squadron of Defence Helicopter Command from Gilze-Rijen Air Base. The crashed Apache was part of the Dutch helicopter detachment in Mali, which also includes 3 helicopters of the same type and 3 Chinook helicopters. This unit works together with Dutch special forces and other personnel to gather intelligence for UN mission MINUSMA. Approximately 450 Dutch military personnel are contributing to the mission. The main force is stationed in Gao, while a small contingent operates from the Malian capital Bamako.

Book of condolence

Netherlands Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and Netherlands Chief of Defence General Tom Middendorp offered their sympathy in the online book of condolence: "We are extremely distraught at the news of the deaths of Apache pilots Captain René Zeetsen and First Lieutenant Ernst Mollinger in Mali. Our thoughts are with their partners, family, friends and colleagues. We wish them fortitude in coping with this immense loss. René Zeetsen and Ernst Mollinger dedicated themselves to a free and safe world and made the ultimate sacrifice for this cause. They deserve our deepest respect."

You can offer your condolences in the online book of condolence at defensie.nl (Dutch-language website). These expressions of sympathy will be offered to the families of the deceased at a later date.