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B-1 Crashes in Montana, Killing All 4 in Crew

<i> From Associated Press</i>

An Air Force B-1 bomber on a training mission crashed in a Montana prairie on Friday, killing all four crew members, the Air Force said. It was the sixth U.S. military crash in seven days.

The B-1 crashed in the southeast corner of Montana, near the state line with Wyoming. The bomber was flying from Ellsworth Air Force Base, about 100 miles to the southeast, when it went down near the Powder River military training range.

“It was just a big, black mushroom cloud. It looked so black against the clear sky,” Kaye Nelson said from the Valley Inn Bar & Cafe in Alzada.

Capt. Gary Carruthers, a spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., said all four crew members died.

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“It dug a trench that was between a quarter-mile and a half-mile long,” said Dick Wesnick, editor of the Billings Gazette, who flew over the crash site four hours after the crash.

“There’s nothing left but debris. It was destroyed,” he said. “There was no evidence of a wing, a tail, a cockpit. I don’t know if they removed anything before we got there. There was no large, identifiable piece of an aircraft.”

The B-1B Lancer, the type flown by Ellsworth’s 28th Bomb Wing, is a long-range, heavy bomber that entered Air Force service in 1985. It can carry up to 84 conventional 500-pound bombs or an undisclosed number of nuclear weapons and fly faster than 900 mph. It costs more than $200 million.

The Air Force said it did not know if the downed plane was carrying dummy bombs, as most do on training runs, or live bombs.

The rash of accidents had prompted the Pentagon to order a halt to all military training flights for one day over the coming week. After the Montana crash, the Air Force pushed up its one-day suspension to Monday instead of next Friday as planned.


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