- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

FORT DRUM, N.Y., March 12 (UPI) — A memorial service was planned at Fort Drum Wednesday for the soldiers killed Tuesday when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed on a routine training mission.

The Army did not say how many people were killed when the helicopter crashed in a snowy wooded area, but it said there were two survivors who were being treated at a local hospital. Their condition was not immediately released. The helicopter was carrying 13 people.

"I would like to extend my condolences to the families of our fallen comrades, and I want to assure you that we will fully investigate this terrible accident and do everything in our power to take care of all the families involved in this tragedy," said Maj. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

The Army post in upstate New York is home of the 10th Mountain Division. It has been a major staging ground for troops preparing for a possible war with Iraq.

The Black Hawk is the Army's front-line utility helicopter used for air assault, air cavalry, and aeromedical evacuation units. It is designed to carry 11 combat-loaded, air assault troops.

There have been three fatal Black Hawk accidents claiming 13 lives in the Army since October, not counting Tuesday's crash.

The previous crash occurred Feb. 25 when a Black Hawk crashed in Kuwait during night training maneuvers.

Overall, the Army aviation accident rate is more than 40 percent higher over the past four months than the average rate during the same period over the past three years. The rise could be due to the build-up for a possible war with Iraq.

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