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Army denies pressure from US on helicopter crash probe

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The R.O.C. Army yesterday denied pressure from the United States on the ongoing investigation into the crash of an AH-64E Apache attack helicopter last Friday.

Army Headquarters Political Warfare Office head Tseng Yu-fu (曾有福) yesterday told local media that the military has not felt any pressure from the U.S. regarding the investigation to determine the cause of the accident.

Tseng made the remarks when asked to comment on a local media report, which claimed that immediately after the crash at 10 a.m. last Friday, representatives of the Boeing Company, the U.S. firm that produced the chopper, told the R.O.C. military via the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) not to say “too much” to the press.

The AIT represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official ties.

U.S. concern is the main reason why it took five hours before the Army held a press conference, Want Weekly (周刊王) quoted military sources as saying.

Asked to comment, Tseng said that Army units were still trying to get a better picture of the incident, including the safety of the two pilots aboard the aircraft, immediately after they learned of the crash.

The Army decided at around noon to hold an emergency press event at 3 p.m. to give the public a more detailed account of the incident, he said.

Tseng stressed that the Army was not pressured to delay its press conference.

An ongoing probe is currently being carried out by an investigative committee. According to the Army, the members of the committee include representatives of the Boeing Company.

The investigation will determine whether it was human error, weather conditions or mechanical failure that caused the accident.

AIT Comments

Asked to comment, the AIT dismissed the report, saying that it didn't tell Taiwan's military how to conduct the investigation.

“We do not comment or speculate on ongoing accident investigations,” said AIT Public Diplomacy Section Chief Joseph Bookbinder.

The helicopter was conducting flight training Friday morning when it crashed on top of a three-story building in Longtan Township, Taoyuan county, damaging several homes. The two pilots sustained minor injuries.

Following the crash, the Army ordered the grounding of all 18 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters that Taiwan purchased from the U.S. until further notice.

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