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U.S. Navy helicopter crashes in Indonesia

Minor injuries in accident near Banda Aceh airport

Air and Space Accidents
U.S. Navy

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (CNN) -- A U.S. Navy helicopter participating in tsunami relief efforts crashed on approach to the airfield at Banda Aceh early Monday, with all 10 aboard suffering minor injuries, a Navy spokesman said.

The helicopter was en route to Banda Aceh from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln at about 7:15 a.m. (7:15 p.m. ET Sunday) when it crashed within 100 meters (yards) of the airfield, said Capt. Larry Burt, the commander of the carrier's air wing.

The 10 passengers and crew members on board have been returned to the ship for treatment. Cmdr. Mark McDonald, a spokesman for the U.S. relief effort, said all are believed to have suffered "very minor injuries."

Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province, is near the epicenter of the massive earthquake that produced tsunamis that devastated the Indian Ocean coasts of several south Asian nations December 26.

Its airbase has been a hub for international troops and aid workers who have been assisting the relief effort. Australian troops camped near the crash site were the first to respond, rushing across the rice paddy with stretchers to tend to the injured.

Indonesian troops have battled a separatist movement in Aceh for several years, but investigators have ruled out hostile fire as a cause of the crash, McDonald said.

The helicopter was an SH-60 Seahawk, the Navy's version of the Army's UH-60 widely used Black Hawk. It lay on its right side in a rice paddy as investigators began working to determine the cause of the crash.

Helicopters from the Lincoln have been making between 40 and 50 flights a day to assist relief efforts. Those flights were ordered suspended after the crash but resumed after an hour.

The United States has close to 13,000 military personnel in the region, with 17 Navy ships, one U.S. Coast Guard cutter and about 90 aircraft.

The global death toll from the tsunami disaster is more than 140,000, according to CNN sources. The majority of the deaths were in Indonesia -- nearly 95,000, according to the country's Health Ministry.

CNN's Mike Chinoy and Alex Quade contributed to this report.

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