PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A U.N. helicopter carrying 23 people, most of them foreign journalists, crashed in northwest Cambodia Saturday, injuring six people in the third such accident in less than three months, a U.N. spokesman said.
Experts blamed technical problems for the crash of the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter in the northwestern provincial capital of Siem Reap at about 8:30 a.m., said the spokesman for the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).
He said the pilot lost control of the aircraft as it was coming in to land at Siem Reap's airport on a flight from Phnom Penh. Witnesses said a rotor blade broke off and the helicopter spun around several times before crashing to the ground.
They said most of the 23 people on board, who included 15 international journalists invited to Cambodia by UNTAC, were forced to roll or crawl out of the wreckage with their clothes soaked in gasoline.
Six people were hospitalized in Phnom Penh, including a Japanese UNTAC employee who suffered serious spinal injuries when she was thrown out of the helicopter on impact, and an American freelance photographer, who suffered a broken foot.
'I thought I was going to die,' said UNTAC military spokesman Dick Polk, one of three U.N. personnel on the aircraft, which also had five Russian crew members.
The crash was the third in Cambodia involving helicopters of the Russian-made Mi series.
On Jan. 12, an Mi-17 crashed while landing on a landing pad in the harbor at Sihanoukville. There were no casualties. An Mi-26 also crashed while landing in the northeastern town of Strung Treng on Feb. 27, injuring 14 passengers, five of them seriously.
UNTAC also uses French-made Puma helicopters and Canadian-supplied Bells.