Six Camp Pendleton-based Marines and a seventh stationed in Yuma, Ariz., were killed when two helicopters collided during a nighttime training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, the Marine Corps announced today.
The Marines were killed about 8 p.m. Wednesday when their AH-1W “Cobra” and UH-1 “Huey” helicopters collided in flight over a remote area of the Yuma Training Range Complex, according to Miramar’s public affairs office.
No one survived survived the crash, which a USMC gunnery sergeant based in Yuma said occurred on the California side of the border. He told KNX 1070 Newsradio that the exercise had been a routine “ongoing training evolution.”
The six Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton belonged to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at MCAS Miramar.
There will be an “intensive investigation” into the cause of the crash over the next few months, said Lt. Maureen Dooley, a spokeswoman for the 3rd Wing.
The identities of the deceased Marines were withheld pending family notification. Dooley said the names would not be released until at least Friday afternoon.
Although the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing is based at MCAS Miramar, six of the Marines killed Wednesday night were stationed at Camp Pendleton, along with the rest of the light-attack squadron and their aircraft, Dooley said. MAW Marines train in Yuma on a weekly basis, according to Dooley.
The seventh victim was stationed in Yuma, according to a MCAS Miramar statement. The gunnery sergeant interviewed by KNX said that victim was one of the two pilots.
It’s not the first time that Camp Pendleton Marines have died in a Cobra-Huey collision.
On Oct. 26, 2009, four Camp Pendleton-based Marines were killed when their Cobra and Huey helicopters collided over southern Afghanistan. Cpl. Gregory M.W. Fleury, 23, and Capt. Eric A. Jones, 29, were in the Huey that collided with the Cobra carrying David S. Mitchell, 30, and Kyle R. Van De Giesen, 29.
Four days later, a Camp Pendleton-based Cobra collided in flight with a Sacramento-based U.S. Coast Guard C-130 search plane near San Clemente Island, killing two Marines aboard the Cobra and seven Coast Guard members. Three separate military probes concluded there was no single factor that caused the crash.
More recently, a Marine pilot and his co-pilot were killed when their Cobra helicopter went down at Camp Pendleton on Sept. 19 during a training exercise, killing Capt. Jeffrey Bland, 37, and 1st Lt. Thomas Heitmann, 27. The crash sparked a brush fire that blackened about 120 acres near Fallbrook.
Last July, 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Trevor Cook was killed and five other Marines were injured when a Huey helicopter went down in a hilly area in the northwestern reaches of Camp Pendleton, sparking a small brush fire that was quickly extinguished.