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Navy copter crash kills 3 in Texas

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Chopper reportedly went down near 1,000-foot TV tower
  • Crash took place during heavy fog, reports Caller-Times newspaper
  • Fourth victim in critical condition at Texas hospital, military says
  • Three killed when MH-53 Sea Dragon crashed in field near Corpus Christi
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(CNN) -- Three crew members died in a fiery Navy helicopter crash near Corpus Christi, Texas, a military spokesman said, and a fourth is hospitalized in critical condition.

The Navy MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopter crashed in a field about four miles south of Corpus Christi on Wednesday just after 8 p.m. It caught fire after impact, said Ed Mackley with the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command.

Copter wreckage came to rest near guide wires of a 1,000-foot TV tower for Public Broadcasting System affiliate KEDT, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Authorities refused to tell The Associate Press whether the Sea Dragon collided with the tower.

A witness reported a huge fireball and booming noise shortly after the crash. Rescuers found bodies of three crew members about 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, Mackley said. Video Watch smoke and flames after the crash »

Witness J.D. Batten told the Caller-Times he was walking on his property about two miles from the crash site when he heard a helicopter overhead.

"I saw a red-glowing fireball shoot hundreds of feet up into the air," he told the paper. "I heard a giant boom a second later. It was then dead silent, and I couldn't hear the helicopter anymore."

A fourth crew member was in critical condition at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, Mackley said.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families," Mackley said. Authorities did not immediately identify the victims.

The aircraft was part of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 out of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, a military spokesman told the Caller-Times.

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The Caller-Times quoted a Navy spokesman who said the aircraft was on a training mission and the crash occurred during heavy fog. A military investigation will try to determine what caused the crash, Mackley said.

First responders to the crash site were hindered by downed power lines, according to the Caller-Times report. The paper said firefighters and a busload of military personnel searched the muddy area surrounding the crash site for hours. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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