Two Marine helicopters crashed in the Arizona desert while practicing night maneuvers, killing all 10 men aboard, authorities said today.
The accident came one day after a National Guard helicopter crashed in the California desert, killing all eight men aboard.
The Marine choppers, a Boeing CH-46 and a Bell UH-1N, were on a training mission as part of a weapons tactics instructor course that involved 81 marines from bases nationwide, said Staff Sgt. Hal Wheeler of the Marine Corps Air Station at Yuma.
It was not known what caused the crash or whether the two helicopters collided.
The aircraft were being used in a “troop insertion exercise” with crews using night-vision goggles when the crash occurred, said Army Maj. Linda Dumoulin, a Pentagon duty officer.
“The course takes place twice each year to teach advanced tactics to pilots so they can become instructors,” Wheeler said. “It’s a graduate-level course. Our most talented people are involved.”
Goldwater Gunnery Range
The 7:45 p.m. crash Tuesday occurred over the Barry Goldwater Gunnery Range, 125 miles southeast of Yuma, in airspace controlled by the Air Force, Wheeler said.
Yuma is about 180 miles southwest of Phoenix on the Colorado River.
“Because it took place on a bombing range, we’ve had to wait until first light to investigate,” he said. “There is a real concern of the possibility of unexploded bombs out there.”
“At least one search and rescue helicopter (and a) fairly sizable” ground convoy were sent from the Marine base at Yuma to the desert crash site, he said.
Names of the victims were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Four people were on the CH-46, six on the UH-1N. Both helicopters are designed to carry more troops but were not transporting full teams for the exercise, Dumoulin said.