March 13, 2003
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers lowered the flag for 11 fallen comrades and returned to preparing for a possible war with Iraq as investigators Wednesday tried to determine what caused the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter during a training exercise.
The UH-60 went down Tuesday afternoon in a remote part of the rugged, 167-square-mile post in northern New York.
Heavy snowfall slowed the work by investigators from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., and Fort Drum's Criminal Investigation Command, which reviews accidents on the base.
Two of the 13 soldiers aboard survived. One was in critical condition, the other in serious condition. Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck said the two soldiers talked to him Wednesday morning about the crash, but he would not release details.
"Obviously they're very grateful they're alive, but they're heartbroken and traumatized by the loss of their brothers," he said. "By all indications, it was an accident."
Fort Drum, along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario about 70 miles northeast of Syracuse, is home to the 10th Mountain Division and has been a major staging area for reserve units in the buildup toward war with Iraq.
The Black Hawk had completed an assault exercise and was returning to the airfield.
There was no indication of trouble beforehand, and crews from the two other helicopters did not see the crash, said a spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty.
"They came back here and that's when they noticed the trail helicopter was missing," he said.
All those aboard the helicopter were active members of the 10th Mountain Division. Several of the infantrymen, including the two survivors, served recently in Afghanistan, Hagenbeck said. The victims' battalion was on standby for possible deployment.