Monday, May 08, 2006

Ten U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Friday were from Fort Drum in New York

Once again, Fort Drum hit hard by fatal crash
By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

Ten U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Friday were from Fort Drum in New York, reviving memories of a fatal helicopter crash at the infantry post three years ago.

Eleven soldiers were killed in March 2003 when their Black Hawk helicopter went down during a training exercise at the post near Watertown, N.Y.

Fort Drum spokesman Benjamin Abel said Sunday that the names and units of the 10 soldiers had not been released. He said he did not know whether relatives of all the soldiers had been notified.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and comrades of the soldiers who were involved in this crash," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76 in Afghanistan, said in a written statement.

The accident Friday, like the one in 2003, killed soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. They died when their CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter crashed near Asadabad in Afghanistan's Kunar province, according to the Pentagon.

The crash at the mountaintop landing zone was not the result of enemy action, said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman on Afghanistan. An investigation into the cause was underway, Vician said.

Abel said 5,800 servicemembers from Fort Drum are in Afghanistan.

Vician said there have been 224 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and 2,415 in Iraq, as of May 5 reports, which do not include the deaths in the Chinook helicopter crash.

The accident Friday nearly doubled Fort Drum's number of deaths in Afghanistan, which had stood at 11.

Spokesman Abel noted that the 2003 helicopter crash occurred during training, not combat.

"There are similarities in the loss of life, but they are not parallel," he said.

The Rev. Vance Mann, a rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Watertown, said Sunday that some of the church's congregants spoke to him of the recent crash and asked him to pray for the victims.

"People seem concerned," Mann said. "But they are not overly concerned. There is no hysteria."

He said he was told that some soldiers had called home to let families know they were not involved in the crash.

Mann said, "The families I've had contact with try to maintain a sense of normalcy" as they worry about soldiers away in combat.

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