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Two die in Afghan helicopter crash

The CH-53E Super Stallion is used to transport heavy equipment and supplies.  

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A helicopter crash that killed two U.S. Marines and left five others injured Sunday morning appeared to be the result of a mechanical failure, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"I spoke to Gen. [Tommy] Franks, the combatant commander, this morning and he indicates that they have no evidence at all that it was groundfire," Rumsfeld said. "They believe from what they've been able to hear from the members of the crew that it was very likely ... a mechanical failure."

Seven Marines were on board when the transport helicopter went down around 8 a.m. (10:30 p.m. Saturday ET), said Army Capt. Tom Bryant.

Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III, 26, from Wicomico, Maryland, and Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan, 24, from Mendicino, California, died in the crash. They served as a communications navigation systems technician and helicopter mechanic, respectively.

Crew chiefs Cpl. David J. Lynne, 23, of Mecklenburg, North Carolina, and Cpl. Stephen A. Sullivan, 24, of Pickens, South Carolina; pilots Capt. William J. Cody, 30, of Middlesex, New Jersey, and Capt. Douglas V. Glasgow, 33, of Wayne, Ohio; and helicopter mechanic Cpl. Ivan A. Montanez, 22, of Royse City, Texas, were injured.

The Pentagon says the helicopter crash that killed two U.S. Marines and injured five more in Afghanistan was not caused by enemy fire. CNN's Jeff Levine reports (January 21)

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U.S. combat aircraft: CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopter

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 Marines killed
Radio operator/navigator: Staff Sgt. Walter F. Cohee III, 26, of Wicomico, Maryland

Helicopter mechanic: Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan, 24, of Mendocino, California

The injured Marines were being transported to Germany for treatment.

The Marines and helicopter were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron, also known as the "Flying Tigers," of Marine Aircraft Group 16. The squadron is part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and based at Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California.

U.S. military officials said the cause of the crash landing was under investigation.

The helicopter was one of two on a resupply mission to U.S. forces, said 1st Lt. James Jarvis of the U.S. Marines.

The aircraft had just departed Bagram air base north of Kabul, heading for an undisclosed location, when one of them went down over snow-covered mountainous terrain about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of the air base.

Of the injured, two were in critical condition, two were in serious, and one had minimal injuries, Bryant said. After being taken first to Bagram, the Marines were taken by C-130 transport plane to an undisclosed U.S. base in the region, Bryant said.

"The site was quickly secured, we quickly got medical personnel and others on the ground and got them evacuated back here," Bryant said from Bagram.

"We have a robust medical treatment capability here. They were immediately attended to and quickly evacuated out of here."

Jarvis said another helicopter was able to land nearby and evacuate all the Marines from the scene.

It was the second time a CH-53 Super Stallion has had difficulty landing since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. In late December, one of the helicopters went down in a desert area northwest of Kandahar.

The chopper was repaired in the field and returned to Kandahar. The four Marines on board were uninjured.

Bryant said the U.S. military was taking no steps to ground other CH-53s in the wake of Sunday's incident. "No actions have taken place in terms of any further safety," he said.

The Super Stallion, used for transportation of heavy equipment and supplies, has been a workhorse for the U.S. Marines in the region. It is especially useful over rugged terrain, in inclement weather, and at night.

On January 9, a KC-130 refueling plane crashed in western Pakistan, killing all seven Marines on board. Defense officials have said there is no indication of enemy fire, although the incident remained under investigation.




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