Training accidents are nothing new to the US Military. I myself was serving the United States Navy while on a pre-deployment work up for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) training in Fallon, NV with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS-7) when we lost our Commanding Officer, a junior officer, and three aircrewmen. While this is always difficult for those who are involved, it’s accepted that when you work as hard as we do to keep our country safe there will be incidents that claim the lives of those who serve outside of the combat zone. This week has proven to be a particularly tough time for the United States Armed forces seeing three accidents within four days, claiming the lives of nine servicemen with another service member still missing and presumed dead.
The first accident this week occurred on Tuesday, January 7th in the United Kingdom and involved a HH-60G Pavehawk flown by the United States Air Force (USAF) for CSAR operations. The USAF was conducting a CSAR training exercise near Cley and the Blackhawk derivative crashed sometime around 6p.m. according to local officials, claiming the lives of all 4 on board. Residents in the area stated that they didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary, and that the first indication of a problem was when they saw emergency crews rushing towards the nature reserve. The cause of the crash remains unknown at this point.
The second accident this week occurred the next day on Wednesday, January 8th around 11a.m. off the coast of Norfolk, VA. In this incident the United States Navy (USN) lost a MH-53E Sea Dragon, which is commonly used for transporting large heavy items and aerial mine sweeping operations. The Navy said that there were 5 crewman aboard the Sea Dragon and that two survived the crash, while two perished, and one remains missing and is presumed to have died due to the conditions of the water in the search area. Search and recovery efforts are still underway for the missing crewman. Of the two survivors one was treated and released from the hospital, while the other remains in the hospital and is expected to be released as early as today. There is no known cause for the crash at this time.
The third accident this week occurred on Thursday, January 9th in Afghanistan. Although technically this accident occurred in an active combat zone, the aircraft was not struck by enemy fire, and thus qualifies as an accident. The aircraft involved was a NATO MC-12 Liberty which is used for airborne surveillance missions. Onboard, there were two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members and one ISAF civilian contractor who all perished in the accident. The cause of the crash is not known at this point, although it’s known the aircraft did not go down due to enemy fire. All aforementioned accidents are currently under investigation at this point in time.
Accidents are a part of life, particularly so in the fast-paced world of military training. The oddity of three crashes not caused by military action in the same week, within 72 hours of each other, increases the tragedy of this past week. All of us here at Military Media want to express our sincerest condolences for the families, friends, and fellow service members of those lost in this tragic week of military aviation.