Five perish in Navy helicopter crash

Published May 9, 2007

RENO, Nev. - A Navy helicopter struck a power line during a nighttime training flight and crashed in a rugged area of the northern Nevada desert, killing all five Florida-based crew members, the Navy said Tuesday.

The SH-60F helicopter, flying out of Naval Air Station Fallon, went down late Monday about 10 miles west of Austin, base spokesman Zip Upham said.

"The helicopter was on a combat search-and-rescue exercise, " Upham said. It was flying at a low altitude when it struck a high-voltage transmission line, cutting it.

"It was a simulated tactical scenario, where they have to get into threatened territory and recover U.S. personnel, " Upham said.

The helicopter was assigned to Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Seven based in Jacksonville. The squadron is part of Carrier Air Wing Three, which deploys on the USS Harry S. Truman. The crew was on a monthlong training mission at Fallon that began April 30.

Upham said the carrier air wing, about 1, 800 personnel, is participating in the training, which was suspended Tuesday after the crash.

"This group is the majority, if not exclusively, the folks here for training right now, " Upham said. "The focus for the air wing is on taking care of their shipmates, and pausing to make sure they focus on taking care of each other at this point."

Names of the victims were withheld pending notification of relatives. Their identities will be released by their home base in Jacksonville, possibly today, Upham said.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid issued a statement Tuesday, expressing condolences to the victims' families.

"While the investigation is just beginning, I am hopeful that it will be swift so that the victims' loved ones will have a better understanding of how this tragedy occurred, " he said.

Upham said the crash occurred in an unpopulated area managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Fallon, 60 miles east of Reno, is the home of the Navy's elite Strike and Air Warfare Center.