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Marines' fatal helicopter crash a 'grave reminder' of sacrifices

February 23, 2012 | 12:05 pm

Marine helicopter
The midair collision of two helicopters that killed seven Marines is "a grave reminder of the sacrifices that the men and women of the armed forces make to keep us safe," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday.

Those sacrifices, he said, occurred both in combat abroad and in training.

The seven were training for possible deployment to Afghanistan, Marine officials said, when the two helicopters collided  about two miles west of the Yuma training area. Six of the seven were from Camp Pendleton; one was from the Marine base at Yuma, Ariz.

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

The two helicopters were from Camp Pendleton and were part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, whose headquarters is at the Miramar Marine Corps Base in San Diego.

There were no survivors of the crash, which is under investigation. No names will be released for at least 24 hours, under Marines policy.

The collision between an AH-1W Super Cobra and a UH-1Y Super Huey occurred about 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Although the exact site has not been announced, the crash is believed to have occurred on the California side of the Yuma training range, near the Chocolate Mountains, a Navy-Marine Corps firing range for aircraft.

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.


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Photo: Undated image of an AH-1W  helicopter, the type involved in a collision Wednesday near Yuma, Ariz., during night training exercises. The crash involved an AH-1W and a UH-1Y  helicopter. Credit: U.S. Marines.