A midair crash in the Chocolate Mountains between two U.S. military helicopters killed seven U.S. Marines. The crash happened during a routine training operations on Wednesday night around 10:30 p.m. EST along to Arizona and California border near Yuma.
Marines were flying in a secluded area of a 1.2-million-acre Yuma Training Range Complex all part of a two-week training called “Scorpion Fire” that involves about 450 troops from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
The aircraft’s that collided were an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter and a UH-1Y Huey utility chopper and were part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and based at Camp Pendleton.
Of those seven killed, one was from Yuma, Arizona while the other six were based at Camp Pendleton, California.
According to Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Dunk, a spokesperson for Air Station Yuma, two other helicopters were in the immediate area of the collision. Authorities are investigating the Marine helicopter crash and it could take weeks before it’s determined what caused the crash between the helicopters.
1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a Marine Corps spokeswoman said, “We won’t know exactly what happened until the investigation is complete, and we can’t make any assumptions right now.”
Authorities are reporting that weather did not appear to play any factor in the Marine helicopter crash, but visibility may have been limited by the nightfall and the amount of dust. Something that is referred to as a “brown out” and is created by the helicopters landing and taking off.
1st Lt. Maureen Dooley said the Marines on board the helicopters were prepping for deployment to Afghanistan. “We have aircraft going out to Yuma training ranges on a weekly basis, and they go out there primarily because the aircraft mimics what they will see in Afghanistan.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement about the Marine helicopter crash, “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.”
Names of the Marines involved in the helicopter crash will not be released until their families are notified.
This isn’t the first helicopter crash. According to the Associated Press, “This was the fifth aviation accident since March involving the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquartered at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. Throughout the Navy and Marine Corps, there have only been two other aviation training accidents in the past five years involving seven or more deaths, according to the military’s Naval Safety Center.”