ReutersCaldas, ColombiaJun 28, 2016, 07.01 AM (IST)
Seventeen Colombian soldiers died when their Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter crashed in a central mountainous area of the Andean country, the army announced on Monday.
According to officials, the accident in the Caldas province, some 180 km from the Bogota capital, occurred on June 26 when the helicopter was travelling from the jungle province of Choco to the Tolemaida military base.
Search and rescue teams were deployed on foot in lush jungle to find the site of the crash but no survivors were found.
"I pass on the sad news that our men have been found dead in the site of the accident. Firstly, I want to heartfully express my condolences, to embrace the families of those four officials, seven deputy officials and seven soldiers who were lost in this tragedy," said Colombian army commander, General Alberto Jose Meja.
Officials have blamed bad weather rather than foul play for the tragedy but a full investigation is underway for answers into the crash.
President Juan Manuel Santos passed on his condolences to family members of the fallen soldiers.
"We're waiting for the result of the investigation to see what really happened. It's a sad event, a sad episode and our hearts are with the families of these fallen heroes who died doing their job," he said at military barracks.
Military fatalities are not uncommon in Colombia with many soldiers operating in dense jungle regions against strong drug cartels.
German Martinez lost a member of his family in the helicopter crash. He told media that Colombian soldiers put the lives of citizens before their own in the line of duty.
"When they (soldiers) take on this role one does not always thinking about receiving news like this. They look after the lives of all citizens, attentive to what they must do and they put their lives at risk for us," said Martinez.
The last major helicopter crash happened in Colombia took place in August, when 16 police officers died after a mechanical failure caused their US-made UH-60 Black Hawk to crash during an anti-drug operation in Colombia's northeast.