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Army Helicopters Collide Over Fort Campbell, Ky.; At Least 6 Dead

June 19, 1996

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ Two Army transport helicopters collided and plummeted to the ground Tuesday just before soldiers were to descend to a mockup of a downed helicopter and ``rescue″ soldiers pretending to be injured. Six people were killed and 30 were injured.

The accident _ the military’s second fatal helicopter collision in just over a month _ occurred during the afternoon when the main rotor blades of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters hit each other, said Maj. Joe Howell, a post spokesman.

The helicopters fell from treetop level, and narrowly avoided crashing directly on top of the area where soldiers on the ground were lying around a plywood mockup of another helicopter, said Howell, who witnessed the crash.

Howell said nine of the injured were in critical condition, including four that were transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Nineteen other soldiers and two civilians also were injured, Howell said. The two civilians, hit by flying debris, were treated and released, Howell said.

Howell, who was clearly shaken, said he did not believe the helicopters had gotten into position yet to let the soldiers rappel out.

At least 35 people were involved in the accident, but it was unclear exactly how many were injured. Howell said at least two civilians watching the exercise suffered minor injuries from flying debris.

Four of the injured were in critical condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. The rest were being treated at the hospital on post.

Howell said a group of about 22 civilians were watching the mock medical evacuation. The two helicopters were to hover overhead and soldiers were to descend down on ropes to treat the injured and then airlift them away.

Some of the spectators were from the Association of the U.S. Army, or AUSA. AUSA is devoted to boosting cooperation between Army bases and businesses in towns nearby.

They were sitting on bleachers about 100 yards from the crash site. The group just happened to be at the post at the time of the exercise and had been allowed to watch, Howell said.

Howell said one civilian videotaped the accident. The tape has been turned over to Army investigators from Fort Rucker, Ala.

After the crash, soldiers from the ground and spectators rushed to help. There was very little fire, Howell said.

One helicopter’s fuselage remained intact. The other fuselage broke into large pieces.

Howell said the day was sunny and there was little wind. The exercise area is surrounded by trees, but Howell said the helicopters did not have to maneuver around them.

The helicopters are part of the elite 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee line. The Blackhawk helicopter is used for attack missions or medical evacuations. It usually has a crew of three and can carry up to 11 combat-equipped troops.

On May 10, two Marine helicopters collided in the dark at Camp Lejeune, N.C., killing 14 servicemen and seriously injured two. The CH-46E Sea Knight troop carrier and an AH-1W Super Cobra assault ship were participating in war games involving thousands of British and American troops.

The helicopter crash on Tuesday is the second at Fort Campbell this year. Five soldiers were killed when an MH-47E Chinook crashed near the Tennessee border on March 7 during a training mission.