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Crash of Helicopter Is Probed

March 13, 2003|From Associated Press

FT. DRUM, N.Y. — Soldiers lowered the flag for 11 fallen comrades as investigators Wednesday tried to determine what caused the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter during a training exercise.

The UH-60 went down Tuesday afternoon in a remote part of the rugged, 167-square-mile post in northern New York.

Investigators from the Army Safety Center at Ft. Rucker, Ala., were on the scene Wednesday, joined by personnel from Ft. Drum's Criminal Investigation Command, which reviews all accidents on the base.

Their work was slowed by heavy snowfall.

Two of the 13 soldiers aboard the helicopter survived. One was in critical condition, the other in serious condition.

Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck said the two talked to him about the crash, but he would not divulge details.

"Obviously, they're very grateful they're alive, but they're heartbroken and traumatized by the loss of their brothers," he said.

Ft. Drum, near Lake Ontario about 70 miles northeast of Syracuse, is home to the 10th Mountain Division and has been a major staging area for reserve units taking part in the buildup toward a possible war with Iraq.

The Black Hawk had completed an assault exercise and was returning to the airfield when the crash occurred.

There was no indication of trouble beforehand, and crews from the two other helicopters participating in the exercise did not see the crash, said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division.

"They came back here and that's when they noticed the trail helicopter was missing," he said.

All those aboard the helicopter were active members of the 10th Mountain Division. Several of the infantrymen, including the two survivors, served recently in Afghanistan, Hagenbeck said.

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