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Helicopter crash that killed two Marines caused by bird strike

The helicopter crash last year that killed two Marines at Camp Pendleton was caused when the helicopter struck a red-tailed hawk, the Marine Corps confirmed Friday.

The hawk -- probably weighing about 3 pounds, with a 4-foot wingspan -- collided with the AH-1W Cobra on Sept. 19. Killed in the crash were Capt. Jeffrey Bland, 37, and Lt. Thomas Heitmann, 27.

A Marine investigation concluded that the bird strike made the rotor separate. The crash was "likely unavoidable and unrecoverable once the bird hit the helo," according to a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Bland and Heitmann were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 303. News of the investigative report was first published in U-T San Diego, which received the report through the Freedom of Information Act.


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Photo: A red-tailed hawk eluding a mockingbird. Credit: National Park Service

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