Army won’t say yet if helicopters collided in deadly crash

Dec 13, 2011

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. – The Army isn’t saying yet whether a mid-air collision caused the crash of two reconnaissance helicopters at a training area on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The accident Monday night killed four Washington-based Army aviators.

The helicopters went down in a wooded area just after eight o’clock in the evening. The four pilots – two in each chopper – were on a nighttime training flight. They were flying model called the Kiowa Warrior equipped with high-tech surveillance gear.

These single engine helicopters are used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide air support and security for ground troops. Army safety officer James Oliphant says the pilots would have been using night vision. But he adds the weather was clear at the time of the crash.

“When I arrived here last night the conditions were what we would call VFR conditions so they were certainly suitable for flying. That will be part of the investigation also,” Oliphant said.

The Army is bringing in crash investigators from a post in Alabama. The names of those killed in the accident have not been released. The last time a Fort Lewis-based chopper crashed during nighttime training was in 2006 killing three.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network