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Breaking News

Navy Jet Mistakenly Bombs Military Observers in Kuwait

Aired March 12, 2001 - 4:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: For the second time in just about a month, there has been a deadly accident involving the U.S. Navy. Five people are dead, including at least four U.S. servicemen, when a bombing training mission went awry. It happened a few hours ago in Kuwait during a joint U.S.-Kuwaiti training exercise near the Udari firing range, about 30 miles from the Iraqi border.

A Navy F-18 Hornet aircraft mistakenly dropped a 500-pound bomb as parked vehicles that were being used as guides for aircraft in the exercise -- when the Hornet was flying from the aircraft carrier the USS Harry S. Truman at the time of the accident. Among the dead, a member of the New Zealand military, who's an observer. Apparently, 10 other people were injured, four of them seriously. Two of the injured were treated and released. At least two Kuwaitis were among those who were hurt.

Following up with the latest developments from the Pentagon, our national security correspondent David Ensor joins us now -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, as officials here like to say, the first reports are always wrong, and there is a kind of a moving target here with this story. The initial reports were of possibly as many a dozen casualties. As you noted, now the Pentagon is saying they believe maybe five dead, four of them Americans, one a New Zealander. And they're not revising down their number for the number of causalities. Previously they'd been talking about 10 causalities in addition to the five dead. Now, they're saying there are a total of 10: five dead, five injured.

Those five injured are now in the Kuwait Armed Forces Hospital in Kuwait City, we're told.

Now, this happened during a close air support training mission over the Udari range that you showed our viewers a moment ago, and as you said, a 500-pound bomb was dropped. It's not clear yet to officials here at the Pentagon whether the error was made by the pilot or by someone involved in the exercise, or whether the spectators who were killed and injured were in the wrong place.

That will be the subject of a lot of investigative work in the coming days. In the meantime, though, they're trying to establish final numbers on dead and injured, and those may change yet. But so far, we have five dead and five injured.

So, that's basically the latest from here, Joie.

CHEN: David, I noticed in our Web site, our CNN NEWS SITE Web site chatroom under way at this hour, there were some questions, given of course what happened off Hawaii in the last month, the circumstances, including civilians involved in observing there. Is there a chance that there were civilians involved in the observation of this training exercise, or would it be considered too dangerous to include them in a location like this?

ENSOR: Joie, actually I'm told there were no civilians involved in this. We've just heard that there were no civilian casualties. We've heard that all the casualties were military personnel. So, at least that's the word at the moment, no civilians involved, Joie.

CHEN: All right, David, we've got another question here from the Web chat under way now. "Why are military exercises using live munitions conducted near civilian populations?"

This wasn't actually very close to a civilian population.

ENSOR: This was not particularly near to a civilian population. This was -- this is a range that has been used in the past for this kind of thing. It's out in the Kuwaiti desert. And really, if there hadn't been a terrible misunderstanding of some sort, there wouldn't have been any casualties.

CHEN: CNN's David Ensor, our national security correspondent for us at the Pentagon today. And again, CNN is continuing to follow this still developing story. As we get more information on it, we will bring it to you immediately.

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