Marines Say Copters’ Crash Probably Caused By Collision
YUMA, Ariz. (AP) _ Two Marine helicopters that crashed in the desert, killing 10 servicemen, probably collided when one chopper took off into the path of the other, Marine officials said Thursday.
″We feel confident enough to say a midair collision was more than likely,″ said Gunnery Sgt. Hal Wheeler, a spokesman at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma.
Tuesday night’s crash of the two helicopters - a Boeing CH-46 and a Bell UH-1N - was still being investigated by a team that remained at the site near Gila Bend, said 1st Lt. Mary Baldwin, a Marine spokeswoman.
Maj. Gen. Donald E.P. Miller, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing commander at the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, Calif., said in a statement read by Baldwin that the CH-46 apparently took off from the desert floor and collided with the UH-1N flying at between 100 feet and 200 feet. The CH-46 was from the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, N.C., and the UH-1N was from Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Efforts to recover the bodies of the nine Marines and one Air Force officer were hampered by rough terrain around the crash site at the foot of a string of mountains on the Goldwater Air Force Range 16 miles south of Gila Bend.
The remote desert area is accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles or helicopter, and the last body was not recovered until Wednesday afternoon, Baldwin said.
A memorial service is planned Friday afternoon at the Yuma base’s chapel for the crash victims. There were no survivors.
The exercise culminated a weapons-and-tactics instructors course taught twice a year at the Yuma base, 125 miles southwest of the crash site.
The crash was the second in the course’s history. In 1984, two Marines were killed when their observation plane crashed on the range.
The twin-rotor CH-46 Sea Knight, which Boeing stopped building in 1971, is the Marine’s main assault helicopter and has been involved in several fatal crashes over the past few years.
Three Marines were killed in May when a CH-46 crashed during a test flight from Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station in Hawaii.
Another Marine CH-46 carrying 21 men crashed in 1986, killing eight during a NATO exercise off Norway. In one of the worst crashes involving the helicopter, 14 Marines and a Navy chaplain were killed in 1985 when a CH-46 crashed into the Atlantic off North Carolina.
Tuesday’s crash was the second in as many days involving military helicopters in the Southwest.
On Monday, a UH-1H helicopter hit a power line and crashed near the U.S.-Mexico border in California, killing five lawmen and three National Guardsmen during the first mission of a joint anti-drug smuggling program.
The nine Marines who died in Tuesday’s crash were identified as Maj. William C. Walker III, 35, of Clinton, Mo.; Capt. Steven T. Andrews, 36, of Cincinnati; Capt. Herbert L. Heyl Jr., 33, of Middlesex, N.J.; Cpl. Henry J. Horvath, 24, of Beallsville, Ohio; Capt. Kenneth L. Royal, 28, of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Cpl. Alan J. O’Neil, 20, Fort Atkinson, Wis.; Capt. William A. Stuver, 34, of Chicago; Cpl. James D. Vick II, 21, Columbia, Tenn.; and Cpl. Donald L. Waid, no age or hometown available, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Also killed was Air Force Capt. Timothy J. Kitt, no age or hometown available, a helicopter instructor stationed at Luke Air Force Base west of Phoenix.