President John Mahama and First Lady Lordina Mahama escaped death by a whisker when a strong storm hit the military helicopter in which they were travelling on Friday, forcing the helicopter into an emergency landing.
Poor visibility which erupted due to strong winds reportedly forced the pilot to take a precautionary measure by landing at an open space at Apatrapa in Kumasi around 6:30pm to save the lives of the First Family.
President Mahama and his wife were said to be returning to Kumasi from Sunyani, where they had attended the funeral of Madam Cecilia Johnson’s mother, sources disclosed to DAILY GUIDE.
Confirming the incident to the media, Lt Col Aggrey Quarshie, military spokesman, stated that the pilot’s decision to land the helicopter was because of ‘bad weather’.
The helicopter was transporting the President and his wife to the Kumasi Airport to enable them pick the Presidential Jet to Accra when the near disaster struck.
‘There was a storm approaching so in order to safeguard the First Family, the pilot decided to embark on a precautionary landing,’ he explained.
Lt Col Aggrey Quarshie added that ‘nothing happened to the M17 helicopter and there were no injuries.’
This is the second time the President would encounter flight difficulties in recent times.
On Farmers Day, December 5, 2014, the Presidential Jet Mr Mahama was travelling on developed a technical fault mid-air, and this caused his late arrival at the programme in the Western Region.
In another incident in March this year, the Presidential Jet caught fire while attempting to take off at the Kotoka International Airport for a special mission in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. It was not clear if the President was on board.
Minutes before the emergency landing on Friday, people in the area said they saw the helicopter surprisingly flying low, just above the top of houses – an unusual scenario which sent strong shivers down the spines of witnesses.
‘The helicopter was flying just on top of the houses in the area so we realised that something was wrong and this instantly sparked fear and tension among us,’ eyewitnesses at Apatrapa disclosed.
According to them, they also saw a military officer hanging by the side of the helicopter as he was craning his neck, perhaps searching for an open space for the helicopter to land safely.
‘Initially, the local people were scared about the unusual low manner in which the helicopter was flying so some of them took to their heels to save their lives,’ Richard Karikari Quarshie, who was at the scene said.
The helicopter was then seen moving from one end of the town to another until it finally landed in an open space, which ironically is called Aeroplane Park, close to the Apatrapa Clinic, he noted.
Other eyewitnesses said some armed soldiers quickly got out of the helicopter and cordoned off the area immediately it touched down, and this further heightened the fear of the people who were at a loss with regard to what exactly was going on.
Before the people could go near the helicopter to verify what indeed was going on, a huge number of military/police personnel also rushed to the scene in a convoy of flashy cars.
The President and his wife, who were obviously frightened after having what observers described as ‘a close encounter with death,’ were taken into the cars, which sped away from the scene.
‘The President and the First Lady stayed in the helicopter until the joint military/police team arrived at the scene with the cars to whisk them away,’ Karikari Quarshie narrated.
Sources said the President and his wife as well as other crew members on the helicopter did not sustain any injuries, although they certainly endured some tense moments in the sky.
The helicopter was said to have been left at where the emergency landing took place and it was finally flown away around 6:00am the following day, which was Saturday.
FROM I.F. Joe Awuah Jnr., Kumasi
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