- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

LAREDO, Texas, Jan. 23 (UPI) — Four U.S. Marines were killed Wednesday night when two helicopters crashed during night reconnaissance exercises in South Texas near the border, the Border Patrol said.

The two AH-1-W Super Cobra helicopters went down about 9:27 p.m. near the small town of Zapata, about 65 miles southeast of Laredo. There were two Marines aboard each helicopter, the Border Patrol said.

The Marines were from Marine Helicopter Light Attack Squadron 775 based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. They were flying in an exercise with the Joint Task Force 6 counter-drug mission based at El Paso, Texas.

"They were conducting nighttime aviation reconnaissance at the time of the crash," said Maj. Matt McLaughlin, a Marine Corps. spokesman.

McLaughlin said an investigation was under way into the cause of the crash and whether the aircraft collided during the night exercise.

McLaughlin said the next of kin had not been notified.

The Joint Task Force 6 command center at El Paso coordinates anti-drug missions with civilian and military resources along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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