Five Zambian Air Force (ZAF) officers were seriously injured when the Agusta-Bell 205A helicopter they were flying crashed in the Gwembe district of the Southern Province shortly before dusk on Sunday.
The injured, including two pilots, were returning to the capital Lusaka from a VIP flight which delivered Defence Minister Richwell Siamunene to his home village in Sinazongwe on a private visit.
The aircraft crashed shortly after take-off from Sinazingwe airstrip and the injured officers were taken to the University of Zambia's University Teaching Hospital. They have been medically certified as out of danger.
According to Zambian media reports, the minister was not in the aircraft when it crashed and almost broke in two. The helicopter, ZAF registration number AF 770, has been written off as the damage is beyond repair.
The Ministry of Defence has not commented on the crash except to say the cause is being investigated although sources suggested the aircraft had various mechanical faults which were known to the authorities.
Accidents blamed on mechanical faults and pilot incompetence has haunted the Zambian Air Force (ZAF) for nearly four year now. The air force has lost three helicopters including a Chinese-made Z-9 Harbin and one Karakorum light attack/trainer jet in fatal air crashes since 2012.
A few months ago, President Edgar Lungu's own VVIP Z-9 Harbin helicopter failed to take off after an election campaign in the north-western town of Solwezi and a replacement chopper had to be flown from Lusaka for him and his entourage.