WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush expressed sorrow on Saturday over the helicopter crash in Vietnam that killed 16 members of a U.S.-Vietnamese team searching for the remains of Americans missing in action in the Vietnam War.

Bush confirmed that the helicopter carried 16 people, including seven Americans.

``The families of the service personnel lost in today's tragic accident know better than most the contribution their loved ones made in bringing closure to scores of families across America,'' the president said in a statement issued at the White House.

``Today's loss is a terrible one for our nation,'' Bush said. ``Although not lost in a hostile act, like those for whom they search, they too have lived lives of great consequence, answering a calling of service to their fellow citizens.''

``May we remember their sacrifice and keep them, and their families, in our thoughts and prayers,'' the president said.

The helicopter crashed in mid-afternoon near Thanh Tranh village about 280 miles south of Hanoi. The U.S. military's Pacific Command said the team was ``preparing for a recovery operation involving unaccounted for Americans lost during the Vietnam War.''

A spokesman said the service members killed were all on a mission for Joint Task Force Full Accounting, a Hawaii-based operation that investigates Americans missing from the Vietnam War.

The task force has searched for remains in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

The National Alliance of Families, a group working for the return of servicemen missing in the Vietnam conflict, also issued condolences.

``Please find comfort in the fact that your loved ones will always be remembered for their commitment to finding our loved ones,'' a statement issued by the alliance said.