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Army Believes Those Not Located After Crash To Be Dead

Aired February 22, 2002 - 14:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also, we should hear from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The U.S. Army will brief reporters -- in fact, it is underway right now. This with regard to that missing helicopter in the Philippines yesterday.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the families of our fallen Night Stalkers (ph), I extend my heartfelt sympathy. We are grieving with you, and offer all of our support in your time of grief.

On February 22nd, at approximately 2:30 a.m. Philippine time, 160th U.S. Army MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed into the sea approximately 150 miles northwest of Zamboanga City in the Southern Philippines. This MH-47 was one of two Chinooks that was en route from Basilan island to Mactan when the accident occurred. The lead MH-47 reported the accident, and remained on scene to coordinate search-and-rescue and recovery efforts. A U.S. Navy P-3 and a U.S. Air Force C-130 assisted in the search efforts. 10 personnel were aboard the helicopter. A crew of eight from the 160th, and two airmen from the Air Force. At this time, the bodies of three personnel have been recovered. All remaining personnel are presumed dead.

Next-of-kin notifications have not been completed, so their names cannot be released. The service members' names will be released as soon as notification is complete.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of these men, and all of us from the 160th and the special operations forces community, are grieving along with their families. The Army is a family, and all of us are here to support and care for the families of our lost comrades. A memorial service is planned early next week, for we will seek closure for our loss.

Serving with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is one of the most physically and mentally demanding assignments of Army aviation. We have tough, realistic training, routinely conduct hazardous missions under challenging conditions, both day, night, and in all weather. We take every precaution to prevent accidents, from the maintenance of our equipment to the training of our crews.

The MH-47 is a combat-proven platform, and in this conflict, has faithfully served thousands of hours in the harshest of conditions, achieving success where other platforms could not operate. It is the aircraft that I have flown many hours with our recently fallen.

Night Stalkers believe in our mission, and recognize the volatile nature of our world. Our mission, as soldiers, is inherently dangerous, and accidents occur. It does not make our loss earlier, or -- correction -- easier, but is the reality that each of us face daily.

These men gave their lives in defense of freedom doing what they love most: Flying with the 160th. They were close friends, and quiet professionals who lived by our motto: Night Stalkers don't quit.

Thank you.

HEMMER: The worst news possible for the seven remaining, the Army now saying that it does not anticipate any survivors here. All presumed dead, we're told. Three bodies, so far, have been recovered. Seven more, apparently, still in the water there off the Southern coast of the Philippines.

And for really what has to be the toughest of all, this is -- still notifying the families right now, the next of kin. A memorial service will be planned next week at some point. Again the word from Fort Campbell, there, in Kentucky.

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