An airplane crash in Hungary late on January 19 has claimed the lives of dozens of Slovak troops returning home from peacekeeper duty in Kosovo, U.S. and NATO authorities said.
“On behalf of the U.S. government, the American people, and the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, I express our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragic plane crash January 19,” said Rodolphe Vallee, U.S. ambassador to Slovakia.
“This event is particularly sad because those aboard the aircraft were returning home from a mission in the service of international peace,” Vallee said January 20. “We recognize that this is a tremendous loss for the Slovak armed forces and the entire Slovak nation, and we offer our deepest sympathy.”
NATO’s Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a statement issued several hours after the air crash that he was “deeply saddened by the death of so many Slovak soldiers in last night’s terrible accident.
“These soldiers were returning home after serving the cause of peace in Kosovo, helping to bring stability and security to the people there,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “Their families and their country should be justifiably proud of their service, and I express to them, on behalf of the entire alliance, our profound condolences.”
The Associated Press reported that one person might have survived the crash in mountainous northeastern Hungary. Various reports said the AN-24 aircraft was carrying 43 to 45 people.
Approximately 18,000 NATO-led troops serve in Kosovo, including 1,700 Americans. (See related article.)
Below is the statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia: