Eleven U.S. military members are presumed dead Wednesday morning, after an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed into water, near the the Florida Panhandle, during a training mission, according to a U.S. Defense official.
The helicopter was carrying four aircrew members and seven Marines. It was reported missing around 8:30 pm on Tuesday. The searchers found debris near Elgin Air Force base arond 2 a.m. Wednesday.
The Black Hawk crashed in a place east of the Navarre Bridge, which connects mainland northern Florida and a barrier island, which has the Gulf of Mexico on its other side.
Coast Guard, Air Force and civilian agencies are still searching in the area, but the fog is slowing down the operation. The waterways have been secured by the Coast Guard, a spokesperson from the Elgin Airforce base said.
The causes of the accident still remain unknown, military officials saying that there was no indication of anything suspicious. The area was engulfed in a heavy fog, but there is not sufficient evidence to tell weather that had anything to do with the crash.
The helicopter was on a training mission together with another Black Hawk, from the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion based in Hammond, Louisiana, which returned safely to base, some 40 miles east of Pensacola.
The aircraft were both taking part in a “routine training mission involving the Marine Special Operations Regiment” out of Camp Lejeune, a training base in North Carolina belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the U.S. Military.
All seven Marines involved in the crash were based out of Camp Lejuene, which is a growing North Carolina base which hosts seven major Marine commands. One Navy command is also present at Camp Lejuene, the home of around 170,000 active deputy, retired and civilian personnel.
The names of the eleven men aboard weren’t immediately released.
The UH-60 Black Hawk was introduced into Army service in 1979, as the successor of the UH-1 Huey, the legendary helicopter that was used in the Vietnam War era.
The Black Hawk, a twin-engine helicopter, has a maximum speed of 173 mph. To be operable it needs two pilots and two crew chiefs. A Black Hawk can carry an entire 11-man infantry squad and its equipment.
The Black Hawk has been modified for use by the Navy, which uses the SH-60, known as the Sea Hawk, while the Air Force has the MH-60 Pave Hawk. The Coast Guard version of the helicopter is the HH-60 Jayhawk.
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