Army helicopters crash, killing 6 in Hawaii
KAHUKU, Hawaii (CNN) -- U.S. Army investigators Tuesday began trying to determine what caused the crash of two helicopters during a night exercise at a Hawaiian training ground, killing six soldiers.
Of the 17 soldiers aboard the two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, six were confirmed dead, seven were injured and four were unhurt, said Maj. Nancy Makowski, a spokeswoman for the Army's 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
"Our hearts are very heavy tonight as we grieve with the families of these soldiers," Makowski said.
The injured were taken to local hospitals for observation or treatment, and Army officials said all were in stable condition or better. The names of the dead were not being released until their families could be notified.
"This is a very tragic event for us, a tragic experience for the families of the soldiers, and it is the families we're most concerned with at this time," Makowski said.
Army officials said the accident happened at 7:40 p.m. Monday (12:40 a.m. EST) at a training ground on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, on the shore opposite the state capital of Honolulu. The pilots were flying with the aid of night-vision devices, Makowski said.
"It was being initially conjectured that it might be a mid-air collision. However, that's not clear at all at this point," she said. "We're still investigating the circumstances."
The troops were taking part in an annual exercise called "Lightning Thrust Warrior," which has been under way for a week.
The Black Hawk carries up to 13 people, including a crew of three.
The helicopters were performing air assault operations at the time of the crash, picking up troops from one simulated battle scene and ferrying them to another. According to Army officials, the entire exercise involves about 4,000 troops.
Thirty helicopters were involved in ferrying nearly 1,000 soldiers from Wheeler Army Airfield to a base in Kahuku, according to an earlier Army advisory warning of possible noise disturbing residents.
The incident was unrelated to the ongoing search for survivors from a Japanese trawler that sank after it was struck by a U.S. Navy submarine in waters off Hawaii last week.
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