Marine helicopter crashes in North Carolina, killing three and injuring two |

Marine helicopter crashes in North Carolina, killing three and injuring two

SNEADS FERRY, N.C. (AP) – A Marine Corps helicopter crashed into a river during a mock nighttime ship landing, killing three Marines and injuring two.

The CH-46 Sea Knight went down in the New River near Camp Lejeune Marine about 11 p.m. Monday.

”They don’t know if it was mechanical or human error,” said 1st Lt. Clint Cascaden, a Marine spokesman. ”There were no reports that the aircraft so much as squawked” before the crash.

The pilot and co-pilot were hospitalized in stable condition. The bodies of three crew members were pulled from the river by divers early Tuesday. They were identified as Sgt. Richard Beaty of Cleveland, Tenn.; Sgt. Bryon Lance of Windsor, Vt.; and Lance Cpl. Sean Hughes of Strafford, N.H.

The tail of the helicopter was visible in the river about 500 yards offshore.

The CH-46 was one of two helicopters practicing a night ship landing.

The exercise required the helicopters to touch down near the river on a metal platform meant to simulate the deck of an amphibious ship, said Capt. Alan Crouch, a Marine spokesman. One helicopter had landed and was waiting for the second one, which crashed.

The platform is about the size of a football field, and has lights and is painted to look like a ship deck.

The CH-46 is used mainly for carrying troops.

The same model crashed in 1999 during a training flight 15 miles off San Diego, killing seven Marines from Miramar Naval Air Station.

A CH-46 was also involved in a 1996 collision of two Marine helicopters at Camp Lejeune. Fourteen people were killed.

The Marines’ aging fleet of CH-46s was scheduled to be replaced by the VS-22 Osprey, a helicopter-airplane hybrid. But the changeover has been delayed because the Osprey has had numerous problems, including two crashes last year that killed 23 Marines.

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