JOHANNESBURG, March 31 (Xinhua) -- A South African Air Force (SAAF) helicopter crashed Saturday night, leaving five people dead, the South African Press Association reported on Sunday.
The tragedy occurred as the A109 helicopter was on a routine patrol over the Kruger National Park in the northeastern province of Limpopo at around 7:00 p.m. local time on Saturday, the SAAF was quoted as saying.
"It was part of the anti-poaching operation," the SAAF said.
The Kruger park is the largest reserve in South Africa, where live many endangered animals of rhino. However, some of the rhinos would be targeted and killed by poachers every month due to the rampant smuggling of horns.
Poachers mostly operate at or near moon, and the park has to request the air force to use helicopters to combat them.
"The A109 helicopter lost its control, killing five people on board, " added the SAAF.
The cause of the fatal air accident was not clear, and the SAAF was investigating it.
The twin-turbine helicopter, developed by Italy in the 1970s, is capable of carrying out multiple aerial missions with eight people on board.
South Africa's Department of Defense and Military Veterans and the SAAF expressed their heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased.