FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) – A Black Hawk helicopter carrying 13 people crashed yesterday in a heavily wooded area of this sprawling Army post in upstate New York, military officials said.
The Army said there were two survivors but did not immediately disclose the number of dead.
Maj. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, refused to take questions at a news briefing but indicated there were fatalities.
“I would like to extend my condolences to the families of our fallen comrades and I want to assure you that we will fully investigate this terrible accident and do everything in our power to take care of all the families involved in this tragedy,” he said.
The helicopter, a widely used transport aircraft, crashed just north of Wheeler-Sack Airfield, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said.
He said there was no indication of problems beforehand.
“The first call I got was that it was missing,” he said. “It just disappeared.”
He said he believed the aircraft was on a training mission with at least one other helicopter, perhaps two more.
Maj. Daniel Bohr at Fort Drum said the aircraft last made radio contact shortly before 2 p.m.
Rescue crew were able to locate the crash site an hour and a half later, at about 3:30 p.m.
Greg Burnelle, a Jefferson County emergency management official, said the helicopter crashed between the tiny towns of Antwerp and Philadelphia.
Burnelle said there were “critical injured people.”
Hilferty said at least one soldier was spotted walking away from the wreckage.
Two soldiers were being taken to Samaritan Hospital and a third was en route to the hospital, spokeswoman Krista Kittle said.
Fort Drum, situated along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario.
The fort is about 70 miles northeast of Syracuse amd is the home of the 10th Mountain Division and has been a major staging area for reserve units taking part in the build-up toward war with Iraq.
In recent weeks, nearly 1,000 division soldiers and reservists have left from Fort Drum.
Black Hawk UH-60 helicopters are widely used transport aircraft.
They are equipped with advanced avionics and electronics, such as the global positioning systems. The training mission had no connection with ongoing war exercises at the base, Hilferty said.