1 Black Hawk crashed in fog, killing 11; Another turned back
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Florida (AP) — Searchers struggled Wednesday to find the seven Marines and four soldiers killed when a helicopter crashed, hampered by the same fog that plagued a nighttime training mission.
A second helicopter turned back safely shortly before the wreck, which left debris washing ashore along the Florida coast, officials said.
Military officials haven’t said what caused the crash of the UH-60 Black Hawk, but the weather was bad enough for the other crew to return to land, said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.
The helicopter that crashed had a veteran that served multiple tours in Iraq and helped humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the BP oil spill.
They were carrying unconventional warriors from the Marines Special Operations Command. Like the Army’s Green Berets and the Navy’s SEALs, they were highly trained to endure grueling conditions and sensitive assignments on land and at sea, from seizing ships to special reconnaissance missions and direct action inside hostile territory.
Tuesday night’s training involved practicing “insertion and extraction missions,” using small boats and helicopters to get troops into and out of a target site, said Capt. Barry Morris, spokesman for the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to the families and said he’s confident of a detailed and thorough investigation, said his spokesman, Josh Earnest.
Kim Urr, 62, who works at the Navarre Beach campground near the Eglin Air Force Base training area, said she heard a strange sound, followed by two explosions around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It sounded like something metal either being hit or falling over, that’s what it sounded like. And there were two booms afterward, similar to what you hear with ordnance booms, but more muffled,” Urr said.
Human remains were found Wednesday before the weather deteriorated again, and all 11 service members were presumed killed. But it was still considered a search and rescue mission.
Associated Press contributors include Lolita C. Baldor in Washington; Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Kevin McGill and Stacey Plaisance in Hammond, Louisiana; and Emery P. Dalesio at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.