New Mexico - One of Zimbabwe’s most famous former opposition politicians, Roy Bennett and his wife Heather died in a helicopter crash in New Mexico on Wednesday.
The couple died alongside their close friend Charles Burnett, 61, from Houston in the United States of America (USA), who had helped the former Zimbabwe MP when he found out he had cancer after he fled Zimbabwe.
Burnett funded his surgery and medical treatment in Houston and Bennett was in the US for his annual check up.
The US Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter crashed in remote, moutainous terrain east of Raton on Wednesday evening.
FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford said the crash happened around 6pm about 25 kms east of Raton Municipal Airport.
He did not have any details on the condition of the people onboard, their identities, or what may have caused the crash. He also didn’t know where the helicopter had departed from or its destination.
New Mexico State Police, in a statement posted on Twitter around 7pm, said it was responding to the crash.
In an update around three hours later, State Police said: “Response and rescue attempts have been ongoing but slow. Injuries and details are still being investigated.”
Information spread from New Mexico to Zambia where Bennett lives and many in Zimbabwe knew about his death on Thursday. It is not clear what he was doing in New Mexico when he died.
Bennett, 60, who was a founding member of parliament with the Movement for Democratic Change, was farming in Zambia in recent years.
He left Zimbabwe after he was regularly arrested and served tough times in police cells where he was detained.
He was also convicted of attacking Zanu PF MP and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament and served his sentence in a remote prison where he was short of food.
He was hero-worshipped by many MDC members because he appeared to be fearless in the face of Zanu PF hostility and wide spread arrests, detention and torture of MDC supporters.
Bennett, like scores of evicted white Zimbabwe farmers went to Zambia where they are mostly growing tobacco.
He had previously been a coffee farmer in eastern Zimbabwe and won his seat representing the Chimanimani constitutency near the border with Mozambique.
His beautiful and productive coffee farm soon collapsed after he was evicted and the land around it was also massively disturbed by small scale diamond miners, employed by some Russian contractors.
Independent Foreign Service