A bronze sculpture was erected here in the capital of Sichuan Province Tuesday in memory of five crew members of an Army helicopter who died when their craft crashed in the mountains during an earthquake relief mission on May 31, 2008.
At 9:30 a.m., 48 soldiers fired 12 rounds of bullets into the sky at the ceremony, which was attended by more than 350 Army officers and civilians. At 10:35 a.m., two helicopters dropped flowers above the Chengdu Martyrs' Tomb, where the statue is located.
The copter crew, headed by Senior Colonel Qiu Guanghua, belonged to an airborne land army regiment of the Chengdu MilitaryArea Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).
Qiu and the others -- Li Yue, Wang Huaiyuan, Chen Lin and ZhangPeng -- had been working to rescue and evacuate survivors of the 8.0-magnitude quake that devastated Sichuan and neighboring provinces on May 12, 2008.
After the crew lost contact with headquarters, military and civilian rescuers combed a large area for days, eventually finding the wreckage of the helicopter and the remains of the crew deep in the mountains.
The accident was caused by fog and strong turbulence, investigators said.
The number of Qiu's helicopter, 92734, would never be re-used inthe Army and would be kept as a special number to remember the crew, PLA sources said.
The PLA regiment relocated 1,128 injured people after the quake and transported 5,566 others to safer areas.
The quake, centered in Wenchuan County, left more than 80,000 dead or missing and millions homeless.
On Tuesday, a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the catastrophe was held in Yingxiu Town, one of the worst-hit areas in the deadly earthquake. It was attended and addressed by President Hu Jintao.