A helicopter ferrying passengers to Sierra Leone’s main airport crashed late Sunday, bursting into flames and killing at least 20 people, local radio stations and a witness at the airport said.
One station, Kalleone FM, said 22 people died, including a pilot who jumped from the helicopter as it crashed at the airport. A witness at the airport, who asked not to be identified, confirmed the crash and said its two pilots both jumped out. One survived and was hospitalized.
The witness said the helicopter burst into flames upon crashing. It was destroyed before airport firefighters could put out the flames.
Helicopters and a sea ferry are the only ways to get to the airport, located across a bay from the capital, Freetown, which is on the Atlantic Ocean.
In 2001, a U.N. helicopter traveling from U.N. headquarters in Sierra Leone to the airport crashed into the bay, killing all seven aboard. The U.N. said at the time a mechanical problem appeared to have been the cause.