Seven US Marines killed in helicopter collision
SEVEN US Marines died when two helicopters collided on a night exercise in the desert near the border of California and Arizona.
The Marines were training in a remote area chosen to reflect conditions in Afghanistan. The crash involved a Huey transport helicopter, and a Cobra attack helicopter, and there were no survivors.
It happened at 8pm local time in a remote part of the vast Yuma Training Range Complex, a hot and dusty area ringed by mountains.
A Marines spokesman said the “mishap” occurred during “routine training operations” and that the weather was said to have been “pretty mild”.
Those killed were preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan, the spokesman said.
It was the latest of several recent Marine Corps training accidents in the region. In September, a helicopter went down at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, California, killing the two Marines on board. Two months earlier, another Marine was killed when his helicopter also went down at Camp Pendleton.
Those who died in the latest crash were from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Miramar, in southern California.
Lieutenant Maureen Dooley, a spokeswoman at the Miramar air base, said an investigation was underway and could take months. The investigation will establish whether the crash was a result of technical or pilot error.
Arizona senator, and former pilot, John McCain said: This tragedy is a grave reminder of the sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make to keep us safe, both in training here at home and in combat abroad.”
The Marines conduct the bulk of their aviation training at the Yuma air station which is home to about 4,000 active-duty Marines and sailors, and covers an area of five square miles. Around 600 aircraft and 14,000 personnel from US and Nato forces take part in training there each year.
Last year Prince Harry was stationed at two nearby bases in southern California and Arizona during his Apache attack helicopter training course.
The AH-1W is considered the Marine Corps' main attack helicopter. The UH-1Y is replacing the aging version of the Huey utility helicopter first used during the Vietnam War.
In a tragic day for US troops, two soldiers were shot dead in Afghanistan when an Afghan soldier turned his weapon on them at their based in Khogyani in eastern Nangarhar province. The deaths came after the Taliban called on people to kill Westerners and target troops after the Koran and other religious texts were burned at a US airbase.