Hejce/Bratislava, January 19 (TASR) – Slovak Defence Minister Peter Gajdos and his Hungarian counterpart Istvan Simicsko on Thursday paid homage to the 42 people who were killed in a military aircraft crash near the Hungarian village of Hejce in 2006, TASR learnt on the same day.
An AN-24 military aircraft that was bringing Slovak military personnel back to Slovakia from Kosovo, crashed shortly after 7:30 p.m. on January 19, 2006 around five kilometres from the Slovak border. Only one of the 43 people on board survived.
Gajdos said at the ceremony that it was the biggest air disaster in the history of the independent Slovakia and the Slovak Armed Forces.
“Even 11 years on it’s still very sad and tragic. We still feel this grief and also sympathise with the families of the victims. We’ll never, and I stress the word never, forget our comrades-in-arms, and we’ll pay regular homage to their memory, as they deserve it,” said Gajdos.
The ministers of both countries paid tribute to the victims first on Borso hill – the site of the accident – and later at the memorial in Hejce, where the ceremony was held. Along with the ministers, representatives of the armed forces, various institutions along with the victims’ families and people from the village came to remember the victims. Martin Farkas, the sole survivor of the crash, who still serves as soldier, also attended the ceremony. A Holy Mass in the local church formed part of the commemorations as well.
Chief of General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces Milan Maxim, who was also present, was a commander of ground forces at the time of the tragedy. “More than half of them [the victims] were my soldiers. I take it very hard even today. They were soldiers who carried out tasks on behalf of the Slovak Republic, on behalf of its people,” said Maxim after the ceremony.