Monday, May 07, 2007

Canadian Dies and Frenchmen As Well

A plane crashed in a remote mountainous area of the Sinai desert Sunday, killing half of France's small contingent to a multinational peacekeeping force in Egypt as well as one Canadian peacekeeper.

The Department of National Defence in Ottawa identified the Canadian as Cpl. Benoit Chevalier, an air-traffic controller from Three Wing Bagotville in Quebec.

Chevalier, 25, had been part of the multinational peacekeeping mission in El Gorah since April 5, a Saguenay, Que., newspaper reported.

The Canadian-made DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter plane tried to make an emergency landing on a highway in the Sinai Peninsula's barren mountains but clipped a truck and crashed nearby, said a spokesman for the Multinational Forces and Observers.

The crash killed eight of the 15-member French peacekeeping contingent as well as Chevalier and destroyed the mission's sole fixed-wing aircraft, said MFO spokesman Normand St. Pierre.

The peacekeeping force is an independent international organization created by Egypt and Israel to monitor their border in the Sinai after the 1979 Camp David peace accords. Canada is among the countries that contribute soldiers to the force.

Truck driver Ahmad Attallah told The Associated Press he was driving his vehicle, which was carrying car windshields, on the highway en route to Jordan when he heard something slam into the top of his truck.

"Then I looked up and saw a small plane with a trail of flames and smoke flying at a low altitude and then it disappeared and I heard an explosion," he said, adding that he jumped from the truck after it caught fire. He was uninjured.

Attallah's cousin, Hilal Shehata Mohammed, was driving another truck nearby when he saw the plane's wing hit his cousin's truck.

"We saw the plane coming down and was shaking and the pilot seemed to be trying to use the highway as a runway but the wing of the plane hit the first truck and it caught on fire," he said.


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