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Marine collision killing 7 is latest Pendleton-related air crash

February 23, 2012 | 11:06 am
 Authorities are trying to pinpoint the exact location of a midair collision of two attack helicopters near Yuma, Ariz., that killed seven Marines in the latest of several aircraft accidents involving Camp Pendleton troops.

The crash is believed to have occurred on the California side of the Yuma range, near the Chocolate Mountains, a Navy-Marine Corps firing range for aircraft.

The collision between an AH-1W Super Cobra and a UH-1Y Super Huey occurred about 8 p.m. Wednesday in a remote area just west of the Yuma Training Range Complex. Both helicopters were from Camp Pendleton.

The area is used for training, in part because it mirrors the rough, irregular terrain and the hot, dry weather that helicopter crews will encounter in Afghanistan. Attack helicopter crews train in firing weapons and working in tandem, often at low altitudes.

"We're always training to deploy," said 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a spokeswoman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.

The names of the dead, and the name of their squadron, will not be released for at least 24 hours so families can be notified first, which is Marine policy.

The Cobra is the backbone of the Marine attack helicopter fleet, with a crew of two: a pilot and a co-pilot/gunner. It carries a "Gatling-style" cannon and several varieties of rockets and missiles.

The Huey is a twin-engine medium-size utility helicopter, with a crew of one or two pilots, a crew chief and others as the mission requires. It carries machine guns and rockets, among other armaments.

The collision is under investigation.

In September, a twin-engine, two-seat AH-1W Cobra helicopter went down during training in a remote area of Camp Pendleton, killing two Marine pilots and igniting a brush fire that burned about 120 acres at the base north of San Diego.

In August, two Marines ejected from their F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet as it plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. The two Marines spent four hours in the dark, chilly ocean before they were rescued. Both suffered broken bones but survived.

In July, a decorated Marine from western New York was killed during a training exercise when his UH-1Y helicopter went down in a remote section of Camp Pendleton.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Video: Fox 5 San Diego

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