By Andrew deGrandpre, Military Times staff writer
Most of the Marines involved in Tuesday's helicopter crash near the North Korean border were Hawaii-based infantry personnel, a military official said.
All 21 U.S. troops on board the CH-53E Super Stallion survived what's been called a "hard landing" near a South Korean training range only miles from the Demilitarized Zone. Three Marines, including an enlisted crew member, and two U.S. soldiers remain hospitalized in stable condition, 1st Lt. Gregory Carroll, a Marine spokesman based in Japan, said Wednesday. He described the injuries as minor, mostly cuts and fractures.
The troops were participating in an annual joint training exercise called Foal Eagle. It involves about 10,000 U.S. military personnel partnered with their South Korean counterparts and is scheduled to end April 30.
The CH-53E, one of the Corps' workhorse transports, was deployed to South Korea from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in southern California, said Capt. Garron Garn, a spokesman for the Japan-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, to which the aircraft was assigned while overseas. Its five-person crew was carrying 14 infantry troops with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, plus the two soldiers who are based in South Korea, Carroll said.
The military has not identified anyone involved in the mishap, and Carroll said no one would be made available for interviews.
An investigation is underway. A local firefighter who responded to the scene told Stars and Stripes that the incident occurred as the helicopter was attempting to land. It appears a powerful wind gust may have contributed to the accident, he said.
Photos taken at the scene suggest the wreckage caught fire. Stripes, citing unidentified South Korean officials, reported the troops were evacuated from the helicopter before it burned.