Honduras Crash Kills Five U.S. Soldiers
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ A U.S. military helicopter crashed in central Honduras, the U.S. military said, and radio quoted local police as saying that all five U.S. soldiers aboard were killed.
The American Black Hawk helicopter from Soto Cano Air Force Base in Palmerola crashed at about 8:55 p.m. Wednesday while on routine training, said Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command in Florida.
``Right now we are classifying it as a training accident,″ Costello said. ``It is being investigated.″
Five crew members were aboard and have not been found, he said.
But Arnold Espinal Gutierrez, a Honduran police spokesman near the site of the crash, told Radio HRN on Thursday the ``the bodies of all the helicopter’s occupants were recovered earlier this morning. All of them are U.S. military personnel.″
Espinal said the helicopter departed at 8:14 p.m. from San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city and 110 miles north of Tegucigalpa, the capital.
He said it crashed on a mountain near the town of Santa Cruz de Yojoa some 85 miles north of Tegucigalpa. It was headed to the U.S. base in Palmerola in central Honduras, he said.
Espinal said the cause of the crash was not known, but that there had been heavy rains in the area over the past three days.
Honduran and U.S. soldiers participated in the rescue operations, which lasted 10 hours, he said, adding that the helicopter was destroyed.
The control tower at the La Mesa international airport in San Pedro Sula reported that the helicopter had arrived there from the Palmerola base at 7.30 p.m. to participate in a night landing exercise.
After reloading fuel, it departed again and was headed back to the base when it crashed into the mountain.
Palmerola is a $30 million base built in 1983. It lodges 400 U.S. soldiers, who rotate every three months.
During the turmoil of the 80′s in Central America, Palmerola was the main U.S. military operations center in the area.