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Army Copter Crashes in N.Y.; 13 On Board

Two survivors are found and spokesman says there are fatalities. Troops were on a training mission with another chopper.

March 12, 2003|John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — An Army Black Hawk helicopter with 13 people on board crashed in a heavily wooded area Tuesday during a training mission at Ft. Drum in upstate New York. Military authorities said two people survived.

An Army spokesman at the base, which is home to the 10th Mountain Division, said there were no indications that the craft was having problems when crew members made their last radio transmission about 2 p.m. About 90 minutes later, the crash site of the UH-60 helicopter, used to transport troops, was found. Local officials said there were critically injured people.

Krista Kittle, a spokeswoman at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown, N.Y., said two people were being evaluated at the hospital but declined to release their condition.

She said the hospital's disaster plan was implemented when personnel learned of the crash, and extra doctors were called to the emergency department of the 287-bed institution. Some elective surgery was canceled so operating rooms could be available, she said.

At a news briefing, Maj. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, the 10th Mountain Division's commander, confirmed there were fatalities but declined to answer questions. He pledged that a comprehensive investigation of the accident would take place.

Other military officers said the helicopter was on a training mission with at least one other helicopter.

At the time of the last radio transmission, meteorologists reported mostly cloudy skies with wind gusts of up to 30 mph.

Rescue crews who found the crash site said at least one soldier was spotted walking away from the wreckage.

Hazel Seery, who was driving home from work about 2 p.m., told Associated Press that she saw two helicopters and that they appeared to be behaving differently from numerous other training exercises she has witnessed.

"There was one on the bottom and another helicopter flying on top of it," she said. "The one on the bottom's nose was up and the one on the top was tipping down."

She said she didn't see the crash.

Ft. Drum has been a major staging area for troops and reserve units mobilizing for a possible war with Iraq. About 1,000 soldiers left the base for the Persian Gulf region in recent weeks.

Two soldiers were killed and 13 injured last March at the facility when howitzer shells landed short of their target and exploded close to members of a military intelligence battalion.

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