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Helicopter crash that killed 2 Marines caused by improper maintenance, inquiry shows

Helicopter crash

Marine Major Elizabeth Kealey and Capt. Adam Saterfield were killed Jan. 23 in a helicopter crash at Twentynine Palms.

(Marine Corps)

The helicopter crash that killed two Marines from Camp Pendleton was caused by improper maintenance that led the transmission to seize up and the main rotor to stop, according to a Marine Corps investigation.

Pilot misjudgment was also listed as a factor in the crash.

The investigative report was released to the Marine Corps Times after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Major Elizabeth Kealey and  Capt. Adam Satterfield were the only Marines aboard the UH-1Y Venom helicopter that crashed Jan. 23 at the Twentynine Palms base just 400 yards from its landing point.

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The investigation found that an improperly installed filter cover caused the transmission to lose its oil during the flight from Camp Pendleton, according to the Marine Corps Times.

Although the warning light came on, the pilots had decided against diverting to a closer airport at Yucca Valley or Palm Springs. That decision “was directly causal to this mishap,” the investigative officer wrote.

Kealey, 32, of Indiana, Pa., was a pilot and a weapons training instructor. She had been deployed to Afghanistan. Her awards include three Strike/Flight awards and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Award.

Satterfield, 25, of Oldham, Ky., a pilot, had supported training operations in Southern California.

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The two were from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169.

Maj. Gen. Michael Rocco, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, accepted the report’s findings and its recommendation that no punitive action be taken against Marines involved with maintenance.

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