1. Archive

Army chopper crash kills 11

An Army helicopter carrying 13 soldiers on a training mission crashed in a wooded stretch of the sprawling Fort Drum Army post in upstate New York Tuesday. The Army said only two soldiers had survived the accident.

The Black Hawk helicopter went down in a stretch of woods on the western edge of Fort Drum, which covers 167 square miles near the eastern shore of Lake Ontario and is 75 miles north of Syracuse. Maj. Daniel Bohr, an Army spokesman at Fort Drum, said one of the survivors walked away from the wreckage.

He said that those aboard the helicopter _ a twin-engine aircraft that is normally flown with a crew of three and that can carry up to 14 passengers _ had not been identified. But he said that they were regular soldiers, not reservists.

Maj. Gen. F.L. Hagenbeck, commander of Fort Drum and of the 10th Mountain Division based there, appeared at a news briefing and expressed condolences "to the families of our fallen comrades." He also said there would be an investigation of "this terrible accident."

Bohr said the helicopter was on a training mission when it disappeared from radar about 2 p.m. He said it had taken off from Wheeler-Sack Airfield on the post. It was not clear when the helicopter had taken off, whether it was alone on the training mission or had been flying with other aircraft. Nor was it clear whether it was trying to return to Wheeler-Sack when it crashed.

Bohr said that the Army sent several other helicopters to search for the missing helicopter and that it was found after about 90 minutes. "We had a hard time getting to it," he said, adding that it had gone down in deep woods. Other officials said the wreckage was about three miles from Wheeler-Sack, near the hamlet of Philadelphia, N.Y.

Bohr said that the two survivors had been taken to Samaritan Hospital in Watertown, N.Y., about 9 miles from Fort Drum. The hospital had put its staff on standby after receiving word of the crash.

Another official involved in the search, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, told the Associated Press that there had been no indication of trouble.

"The first call I got was that it was missing," he said. "It just disappeared."

He said the helicopter, a UH-60 Black Hawk, was on a training mission that had no connection with ongoing war exercises at the base.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the National Weather Service reported winds of 22 mph at the Wheeler-Sack field, with gusts of up to 30 mph. The skies were mostly cloudy, and the temperature was 23 degrees.

The UH-60 is the Army's principal tactical transport helicopter. The Defense Department says the UH-60 has been a stalwart on air cavalry and electronic warfare missions and evacuations for more than 20 years. The UH-60 is typically equipped with advanced avionics and electronics.

Fort Drum, which trains more than 80,000 troops a year, has been a major staging area for reserve units as the Army has geared up for a possible war with Iraq. Nearly 1,000 soldiers and reservists have left in recent weeks.