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Published: Mon, January 22, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Zimbabwean opposition politician among five people killed in U.S. helicopter crash

Zimbabwean opposition politician among five people killed in U.S. helicopter crash

Zimbabwean politician Roy Bennett and his wife, Heather, were among the five killed in the fiery crash.

. He was elected to Parliament in 2000.

Former Marine pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd, 57, of Trinidad, Colorado; co-pilot Paul Cobb, 67, of Conroe, Texas; Charles Ryland Burnett, 61, of Houston were also killed, while the sole survivor was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

Andra Cobb was frantic when she called for help, telling an emergency operator that a helicopter she was riding in with her father, longtime partner and others had crashed in a remote part of New Mexico and that she was watching her "family burn".

He said Bennett was "a resolute and committed fighter for democratic change in Zimbabwe".

Dodd, a long-time helicopter pilot and aviation manager at Boyert Shooting Center, had been flying five passengers UH-1 Huey from Raton to a ranch in New Mexico, for his employer on Wednesday, according to Army buddy William Conlon‎. But the rugged terrain and limited road access hampered the response, state police said. "My condolences are extended to their family & friends".

Bennett's wife, Heather, also died when the aircraft hurtled downward, just a few minutes after taking off from the airport in the small community of Raton.

Despite being white, he spoke fluent Shona and won a devoted following of black Zimbabweans who referred to him as "Pachedu, ' meaning 'one of us" for his stance as a strong advocating for political change.

Authorities eventually found the wreckage engulfed in flames, which had sparked a grass fire.

And despite chilly temperatures in the area Thursday, authorities do not suspect weather was a factor in the crash.

In Zimbabwe, Tendai Biti, a prominent opposition leader and a former finance minister, tweeted that the Bennetts' "tragic passing" was "a blow to our struggle".

In 2013, Bennett was among the first opposition party members who called for veteran Morgan Tsvangirai to step down after he was trounced by retired President Robert Mugabe in 2013 elections.

In 2004, Roy Bennett was jailed for a year for assaulting a Cabinet minister who had said Bennett's "forefathers were thieves and murderers" during a parliamentary debate.

Bennett later returned to South Africa but remained a vocal critic of Mugabe's rule. He told authorities immediately after the crash that there were three victims and three survivors - him, Andra Cobb and Roy Bennett, who was suffering from a head wound as authorities tried to determine their location.

'I am devastated- they were two of Zimbabwe's greatest patriots. He also criticized his former party for allegedly enjoying the comforts of government while ordinary Zimbabweans suffered.

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