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7 Marines killed in chopper crash praised for sacrifice

February 24, 2012 |  7:02 am

 Authorities on Friday were probing a midair collision of two helicopters that killed seven Marines as tributes poured in for the dead.

The Wednesday night collision is "a grave reminder of the sacrifices that the men and women of the armed forces make to keep us safe," U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these brave Marines," added U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "We honor their service and all they have done for our country."

Officials say the investigation could take months.

The collision between an AH-1W Super Cobra and a UH-1Y Super Huey occurred about 8 p.m. Wednesday during a routine training mission called Scorpion Fire. The exercise, part of preparations for deployment, was within an hour of ending for the night.

Six of the seven victims were from Camp Pendleton and the other was from the Marine base in Yuma, Ariz. The two aircraft were from Camp Pendleton.

The helicopters collided about 65 miles northwest of Yuma in the Chocolate Mountains, a few miles from the Yuma Training Range complex, on the California side of the border.

The desert areas of California and Arizona are routinely used for training, in part because the region mirrors the rough, irregular geography and the hot, dusty weather that helicopter crews will encounter in Afghanistan.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

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