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The helicopter case: Secret record of the Public Prosecution

Two years after the accident in which an army helicopter crashed during a rescue mission, there are still no answers from the Government on what led to the tragedy that took seven lives.

Srđan Ilić: Helikopter koji se srušio 13. marta 2015. godine
Photo: Srđan Ilić / Helikopter koji se srušio 13. marta 2015. godine

Some of the answers could be obtained from the official records of the Public Prosecution which was dealing with the helicopter case. The Prosecution, however, remains silent to requests to reveal all of the official records.

Moreover, the Public Prosecution was silent for three months and did not state whether it will start an administrative dispute against the decision of the Commissioner for Information of the Public Importance Rodoljub Sabic, who ordered that the official records on the helicopter case should be revealed to the journalists of Insajder.net.

Gordana Jovanovic, who now works as a public notary did not want to comment on the case or to answer why she has not signed the decision not to prosecute, why the decision was announced eight months after the end of investigative procedure. She also denied to answer was someone put pressure on the members Prosecution.

On 30th June 2016, the Public Prosecution announced it will not prosecute anyone in the case of the crashed helicopter. Immediately after deciding not to continue further investigation, the Prosecutor leading the case, Gordana Jovanovic, changed her profession and started working as a public notary. Jovanovic claimed that changing her professional career had nothing to do with the crashed helicopter case. She also said that she was in charge of this case from March to October 2015. 

Such statement raises the question of what happened, bearing in mind that the decision not to prosecute was announced eight months later.

In October 2016, the Public Prosecutor’s office confirmed to Insajder.net that the decision not to prosecute was not signed by the acting prosecutor of the case, Gordana Jovanovic, but her superior at the time, Natasa Krivokapic.

Insajder.net’s journalists requested a copy of the official records from the Public Prosecution, which could reveal what happened in the preliminary investigation proceedings and why the decision to end the investigation was not signed by the acting prosecutor in charge of the case rather than her boss.

The Public Prosecution rejected our request on the grounds that the information requested is “generally known information and it was repeatedly published.”

Insajder’s journalists made an appeal to the Commissioner for Information of the Public Importance Rodoljub Sabic, who said that “the argumentation of the Prosecution is unacceptable.” The Commissioner also pointed to the fact that journalists did not ask for “the documentation that has already been published but a specific document, i.e. the official record.” On 7th December, the Commission ordered the Public Prosecution to deliver the requested document to Insajder within 5 days, but we have not received the record to this day.

Instead, on 16th December, the Higher Public Prosecutor's Office initiated an administrative dispute against the Commissioner's decision that obliges the Prosecutor's Office to deliver the official record to Insider.

By law, the decisions of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance are final and executive. It is possible to start an administrative dispute against these decisions, but only the Court can delay the execution of the decision. This means that by law, the prosecution should have had the document delivered to Insajder.

Baby rescue action despite bad weather

The rescue of an infant from Raska was made by an army helicopter. Since it was a military flight, rules had to be followed, along with the chain of command and professional organization. To date, there are still doubts that the rules were violated during the rescue mission.

Transporting the life-threatened, five days old baby by military helicopter was the only solution, since the transport by ambulance was not possible due to landslides.

Medical transport of the baby was initiated by the Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar, and military action was approved by the Minister of Defense Bratislav Gasic.

The fact is that Minister Gasic did not call to inform the Cabinet of the Chief of Staff, as required by strict military procedures about which he was warned. Instead, he directly contacted the Brigadier General, the Commander of the 204th Air Brigade Predrag Bandic, who then called the pilot.

The first estimate of the Army was that the weather conditions are bad, and even below the minimum for takeoff.

After General Bandic talked to the pilot Omer Mehic and General Ranko Zivak by "the explicit order of the Minister of Defense," it was concluded that there are technical conditions for the execution of the task.

In the disciplinary proceedings at the Military Court, Generals Zivak and Bandic pointed to a series of failures in the investigation, as well as to the mysterious disappearance of evidence, primarily audio recordings and transcripts of the conversations between the crew and their superiors.

In 2016, General Bandic told Insajder he is convinced that the whole action was “a human attempt to save a life.”

Landing at the civilian airport, far from the hospital

It was never fully explained why the helicopter landed on Belgrade civilian airport Nikola Tesla, who made that decision, and why.

From the conversation between the pilots and flight control in Belgrade, it is clear that the original plan was to land the helicopter at the military airport in Batajnica or at the Military Medical Academy in a different part of Belgrade. Those landing points were also suggested by the pilot Omer Mehic who was the captain at the disputed flight. Some 20 minutes before the landing, he was told that the reception of the baby, including incubation, was organized at the airport Nikola Tesla.

As evident from the testimony to the Military Commission, General Bandic decided that the helicopter should land on Nikola Tesla Airport. The decision was made after consulting Goran Pavlovic, the Leader of the Air Force Operations Center at the time.

General Bandic also said to the Military Commission that the Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar called him on the official mobile phone and told him that he wanted to attend the landing.

At the same time, the media were notified about the rescue mission. Doubts were raised when Beta news agency published that the helicopter landed, that Minister Loncar was present, and that he and the Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic organized the whole action. Numerous portals published and then deleted this article. However, daily Politika, Our Newspapers (Nase Novine) and Alo published this news in the next day issue.

For days, the media asked the questions whether the ministers Loncar and Gasic were at the airport that night to gain media publicity. The Defense Minister Gasic negated that he was at the airport, claiming that he was in the city of Krusevac that night, and that he traveled back to Belgrade after he was informed that the helicopter had crashed.

Nearly a month after the tragedy, Minister Loncar said for the first time that he was present at the airport, not with media crews but with the doctors, thus disputing the claims that the transport was organized for political benefit.

The Army helicopter crashed near Nikola Tesla airport in Belgrade on 13th March 2015 during a rescue mission on its return from Raska. The Army personnel were transporting a five days old baby whose life was in jeopardy.

Major Omer Mehić, pilot, captain Milovan Dukarić, sergeant major Nebojsa Trajic, flight mechanic Ivan Miladinovic, doctor Dzevad Ljajic, anesthesiologist Miroslav Veselinovic and the baby from Ademovic family lost their lives in the crash.

Irena Stevic

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