HONOLULU (AP) _ Six soldiers died when two Army Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a nighttime exercise on the island of Oahu. Seven others were injured.

The names of the dead and injured were not disclosed, pending notification of their families. Four of the 17 soldiers on the two aircraft escaped unharmed.

The accident involved two UH60 helicopters participating in an exercise over Kahuku on Monday evening, said Maj. Nancy Makowski, a spokeswoman for the 25th Infantry Division based at Schofield Barracks.

``This is a very tragic event for us,'' Makowski said.

It was initially believed the two helicopters collided in the air, but that has not been confirmed and will be determined in an investigation, Makowski said.

``I heard a big thud,'' said Perry Dane, who lives on Kamehameha Highway about a mile from the crash site. ``It sounded like thunder. It shook, too, like a big rattle.''

The accident was in a remote military area and accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles because of the wet conditions, said Mandy Shiraki, district chief of the city ambulance services.

The two aircraft crashed about 200 yards apart, said Capt. Stephen Johnson, whose fire company came from the nearby Sunset Beach station.

When paramedics and firefighters reached the scene, it was raining heavily and had been raining on and off all day, creating muddy conditions at the site, he said.

There were five or six helicopters in the flight, but only two were involved in the crash, Shiraki said.

Thirty helicopters were involved in ferrying nearly 1,000 soldiers from Wheeler Army Airfield to a base in Kahuku, according to an earlier Army advisory warning of possible noise disturbing residents.

It was part of the Army Hawaii's two-week Lightning Thrust Warrior exercise, which began Feb. 5.


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