Defense helicopter crashes near Aruba; 2 soldiers killed

A Dutch NH90 helicopter
A Dutch NH90

A Defense NH90 helicopter crashed near Aruba on Sunday. Two soldiers, 34-year-old pilot Christine Martens and 33-year-old tactical coordinator Erwin Warnies, were killed in the accident, Commander of the Armed Forces Rob Bauer confirmed on Monday. The cause of the crash is not yet clear.

The helicopter was doing a Coast Guard patrol and was en route to Curacao when it crashed. Four people were on board. The two survivors sustained "no serious injury", Bauer said. Attempts were made to resuscitate the two soldiers, but it was to no avail. Their relatives have been informed and Defense wishes them a lot of strength in this time, Bauer said.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld expressed their condolences. "I think that everyone is shocked at Defense, in the Netherlands. We sympathize with family and loved ones. Truly terrible news," Rutte said to RTL Nieuws. He also published a statement on Twitter, saying that he is "deeply moved by the sad news" of the crash that took the lives of two soldiers.

"My thoughts go out to their families and friends. I wish them lots of strength in this sad time."

"Today I received the terrible news that two of our soldiers have died. My condolences to their family. We are all deeply affected," Bijleveld said on Twitter. The Defense Ministry also opened a public online condolence registry for anyone wanting to write a message about the deaths of Martens and Warnies.

A Coast Guard helicopter and a team of divers will help to salvage the crashed aircraft, giving priority to retrieving the black box. The helicopter was stationed on the Zr.MS Groningen, currently in Curacao.