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7 killed as UK helicopters collide

The Sea King forms the backbone of the Royal Navy's search and rescue capability.
The Sea King forms the backbone of the Royal Navy's search and rescue capability.

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DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Six British crew members and one American were killed in a midair collision between two British Navy Sea King helicopters over the Persian Gulf, according to the UK Central Command in Qatar and the Pentagon.

The accident occurred at 4:30 a.m. Saturday (8:30 EST Friday), Pentagon officials said. At the time it was still dark in the area.

Officials said there was no indication the crash was caused by enemy fire.

Three British crew members were aboard each helicopter, the officials said.

According to British military sources, the helicopters were involved in fleet defense and were not carrying troops.

The U.S. Defense Department Saturday identified the American officer as Navy Lt. Thomas Mullen Adams.

Adams, 27, of La Mesa, California, was assigned as an exchange officer with the Royal Navy's 849 Squadron since October 2002. The squadron's detachment is embarked on the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal.

A full search and rescue mission began immediately after the crash, coalition officials said.

The helicopters came down in international waters shortly after taking off from a British naval ship.

The crash occurred within sight of the vessel.

The accident is the second involving coalition forces in two days. On Friday a U.S. Marine CH-46 helicopter crashed in Kuwait, killing all 12 people aboard.

The eight British and four American dead were the first coalition casualties of the war against Iraq.

The exact cause of that crash was still unclear, but officials told CNN the helicopter was flying through heavy wind and a sandstorm.

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