Six American Military Personnel Killed in Crash
SAN SALVADOR (AP) _ Six American military personnel were killed when their helicopter crashed in a rainstorm just outside San Salvador, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said today.
A seventh American survived the Wednesday night crash, said the spokesman, Jacob Gillespie. Crew, medics and at least one officer were on the helicopter, he said, but he declined to further identify the victims. The Salvadoran armed forces press office said that four officers and two soldiers were killed.
The helicopter deaths bring to 12 the number of American military personnel killed in El Salvador since the war between the U.S.-backed government and leftist guerrillas began in 1979. The U.S. Embassy said no guerrilla involvement was suspected in the crash.
The Huey UH-1H helicopter left the capital for San Miguel, 86 miles east of San Salvador, around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday (11:30 EDT) to pick up an American soldier who had been wounded in a gun accident.
Gillespie said the helipcopter started to turn back because of rainy weather and crashed just before midnight about 10 miles west of the capital near Ilopango Lake. The area is not accessible by land.
The soldier wounded in the gun accident was hospitalized in stable but serious condition today, Gillespie said. The U.S. Embassy said the soldier was an adviser to the Salvadoran military, but Gillespie declined to identify him further.
According to Gillespie, the adviser was accidentally wounded in the neck Wednesday at the Salvadoran military training center in eastern La Union province and later was taken to a military hospital in San Miguel.
In Washington, Pentagon spokeswoman Capt. Nancy Laluntas said the adviser was a staff sergeant, and that another U.S. army adviser had accidentally shot him. She refused to release the wounded man’s name pending notification of relatives.
There are about 150 U.S. military personnel, including 55 advisers, in El Salvador to train the Salvadoran army in its fight against leftist rebels. The rebels are grouped under the umbrella Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.
On May 25, 1983, the rebels shot and killed naval Lt. Commander Albert Schaufelberger as he sat in his car at the Central American University.
Guerrillas opened fire June 19, 1985, on an outdoor cafe in San Salvador and killed four U.S. Marines. They were identified as Sgt. Bobby Dickson, Cpl. Gregory Webber, Sgt. Thomas Handwork and Cpl. Patrick Kwiatkowski.
On March 31, Sgt. Gregory Fronius was killed when guerrillas attacked the northern base at El Paraiso. He was the first U.S. military adviser killed in battle in El Salvador.
The United States has maintained military advisers in El Salvador since 1981 as part of its military aid program to the government.
The limit of 55 was imposed by the United States, and the advisers are under orders to avoid combat situations. They can carry weapons to be used only for self defense.
Altogther, the United States provides more than $1.5 million a day in military and economic aid to El Salvador. Aid has totaled $2.7 billion since 1980, with about three-fourths of that going for military aid and to repair damage caused by the fighting.
An estimated 63,000 people have been killed in the civil war, most of them Salvadoran civilians, according to human rights groups.