Seven marines lost their lives in a midair collision between two helicopters Wednesday night near the California/Arizona border. The collision is only the most recent accident affecting Marine Corps personnel in the area.
Cobra versus Huey, midair
Six of the victims of the accident were members of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based out of Camp Pendeleton in Southern California. One was stationed in Yuma, Ariz. According to Marine spokesperson Lt. Maureen Dooley, the collision occurred at about 8 p.m. Pacific time on Wednesday. The aircraft involved in the collision were an AH-1W Cobra and a UH-1 Huey. There were two Marines in the “Cobra,” and five in the “Huey.”
The crash happened in an isolated section of the Yuma Training Range Complex near the Chocolate Mountains, not far from Yuma. It occurred during routine training operations.
Names not yet released
Dooley said the names of the deceased will not be released until Friday at the earliest, pending the investigation.
“We won’t know exactly what happened until the investigation is complete, and we can’t make any assumptions right now.”
The soldiers killed were preparing for deployment to Afghanistan. The region is a popular one for military training because its harsh desert conditions closely resemble those in Afghanistan.
Preparation for deployment in Afghanistan
The consistent and generally calm weather allows for flight at nearly any time of the day, another reason the area is useful for military training. The weather is not considered a factor in the collision.
Corporal Steven Posy, with the Marine Corps, said Thursday:
“(The weather) was pretty mild last night.”
Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, said in statement Thursday:
“This tragedy serves as another stark and sad reminder of the peril our men and women in uniform encounter on a daily basis — not only abroad, but on our own soil. It also reminds us that, whether in combat or training, no military mission is ever routine. We must never take for granted nor forget these soldiers’ sacrifice and service to the United States of America.”
Other training-related Marine accidents
This is only the most recent of accidents involving Marine Corps personnel while training. Over the past several months, there have been several. Two Marines were killed in September during a training exercise when their helicopter went down. The subsequent crash started a brush fire that raced dangerously toward Camp Pendelton.
Last August, two Marines ended up in chilly ocean water for four hours after being forced to eject from their plummeting F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet. The Marines were rescued and survived with some injuries. Another Marine, this one highly decorated, was killed when his UH-1Y helicopter crashed at Camp Pendleton in July.
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