(Bloomberg) -- The two main contenders in Taiwan’s presidential race curtailed their election campaigns Thursday after the top uniformed military officer died in a helicopter crash.
Chief of General Staff Shen Yi-ming and other officials were en route to meet military personnel in the run up to the Lunar New Year holiday when their UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter made an emergency landing in a mountainous area of New Taipei City, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a text message.
A total of 13 people were on board, with five rescued. A lieutenant colonel, a captain, two senior master sergeants, a major and two major generals were among the dead. Shen was the top official of the General Staff Headquarters within the MND, responsible for command and control of Taiwan’s military field units, and had been in the position since July.
The crash comes days before Taiwanese voters head to the polls to elect their president on Jan. 11. President Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking a second term, will suspend all campaigning through Saturday to focus on her role as Taiwan’s commander-in-chief, her campaign office said. Her main rival, Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang, said he would cancel all public activities Friday.
Tsai ordered flags at Taiwan’s defense and military units be flown at half-staff for three days and called for an investigation into the incident. She also asked Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa to ensure stable defense operations in the wake of the crash.
The cause of the incident is still unknown. The helicopter’s pilot had reported on weather conditions before communication was abruptly lost, the South China Morning Post reported.
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