U.S. military helicopter crashes in Honduras, killing five

Friday, December 13, 2002

SANTA CRUZ DE YOJOA, Honduras -- An American Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the hills of central Honduras during a night training exercise, killing five U.S. soldiers.

The helicopter, from Soto Cano Air Force Base in Palmerola, Honduras, crashed about 9 p.m. Wednesday while on routine training, said Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Florida.

"Right now, we are classifying it as a training accident," Costello said Thursday. "It is being investigated."

The names of the dead were being withheld until their families could be notified. The crew belonged to the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.

There had been heavy rains in the area over the past three days, but the cause of the crash was not known.

Pieces of metal and other debris were strewn across a hillside, which was guarded by both Honduran and U.S. military officials. The helicopter crashed in a remote, agricultural area near a highway.

U.S. Army South spokesman Maj. Rich Crusan confirmed that five crew members were aboard the helicopter. He said the bodies were taken to Soto Cano Air Force Base Thursday.

The unit involved in the crash was assigned to Joint Task Force Bravo, the U.S. military command that conducts training, counter-drug, and humanitarian missions in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Many of its members helped Central America recover after Hurricane Mitch killed thousands and caused billions of dollars in damage in 1998.

Palmerola is a $30 million base built in 1983 and used by both U.S. and Honduran forces.

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