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'At Least I'm Alive': Inside a Deadly Iraq 'Copter Crash

Helicopter went down trying to save Yazidis
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2014 2:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – A crashing helicopter full of Yazidi refugees goes down too quickly to describe—so Alissa Rubin, a veteran New York Times reporter, writes more about the others on board during the crash this week. Yazidi member of Parliament Vian Dakhil, who had given a "heart-rending" speech advocating the rescue of her people, "seemed very together, very organized (although she was inexplicably wearing high heels)." The Iraqi pilot, General Majid Ahmed Saadi, dangerously overloaded the helicopter but said this journey "was the most important thing he had done in his life." Then, when they landed on Mount Sinjar, came the 10-minute stop to save Yazidis.

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"The Yazidis were battered," writes Rubin. "Some older people were barefoot, legs swollen from walking; others were just totally dehydrated; and children sunburned." So many people flocked on board that Yazidis had to be removed twice: "The pilot was just so moved by all this," writes Rubin. Then, during liftoff, the helicopter couldn't lift its nose, flew straight down the mountain, hit a rock, and wham: "Stuff fell on me; I didn’t know if they were people or things." With everyone groaning, Rubin was pulled from the helicopter with a bleeding head and two broken wrists. "At least I’m alive. I bet a lot of them are not. How is the pilot? Did he make it? He just wanted to help." (Almost all were wounded; the pilot was the only fatality.)

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