HELICOPTER ATTACK: How sniper’s bullet killed SA Air Force engineer, wounded pilot in Congo

Sergeant Vusi Mabena, Major Omolemo Matlapeng and Captain Mathew Allan./Source: Facebook

News24 reports that a flight engineer on a SA Air Force helicopter deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo was killed after being hit with a single round, apparently from a sniper rifle.

Sergeant Vusi Mabena was killed in the incident on the Oryx helicopter on Sunday afternoon. He was sitting behind the pilot in command, Major Omolemo Matlapeng, who was apparently hit in the shoulder by the same bullet.

The major and co-pilot, Captain Mathew Allan, managed to fly the Oryx, which had its wing catch fire, back to Goma, where Matlapeng underwent an operation on his wound.

The incident happened in Kiwanja, some 70km north-east from Goma in the North Kivu province.

A photograph shows the single bullet hole which pierced through the window to the right of Matlapeng. The bullet fragments recovered indicate that the shot was probably from a 7.62 calibre Dragunov sniper rifle.

The suspected sniper seemingly took position on a ridge where the Oryx in cruise flight and flying low level crossed.

SA Air Force sources said Mabena and Matlapeng were from 17 Squadron in Pretoria.

Allan is from 15 Squadron based in Durban. The South Africans are part of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco).

It is not clear why the Oryx was flying alone, as the SA Air Force operational guidelines are for the crews in conflict areas such as the DRC to always fly in pairs. A Monusco spokesperson said the helicopter had been flying from Beni to Goma when it was hit.