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CNN BREAKING NEWS

U.S. Military Helicopter Crashes in Italy

Aired July 16, 2003 - 13:09   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: This news coming in to CNN -- we're told a military helicopter in crashed in Italy. On the phone with us now, our Rome bureau chief, Alessio Vinci. Alessio, what can you tell us?
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: ... spokesman for the U.S. military says that a helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the Sigonella Air Naval Base in Sicily. The crash took place at about 5:00 p.m., local time. That's a little over two hours ago.

Four crew members, according to the spokesperson, were on board of the chopper at the time of the crash. At this time, the status of the crew members is unknown.

U.S. firefighters, we understand, are on the scene. They have cordoned off the entire area and managed, apparently, to bring the fire under control.

The cause of the crash at this time is still under investigation. The military spokesman in Sigonella, Lieutenant Steve Curry, said the aircraft crashed approximately 10 miles southwest of the base, which is on land. He also said the aircraft, an H-53E helicopter, belonged to the Support Squadron. It's a chopper primarily used for the transport of supplies.

Italian news agencies, meanwhile, are reporting that the helicopter crashed near a small artificial lake, not too far from a gas station. After the impact, according to these news report, the helicopter caught fire. And one eyewitness is quoted in the Italian news agencies as saying that before the crash he saw, first, some white and then some black smoke coming out of the engine of the aircraft which apparently is a tell-tale sign for mechanical failure. Back to you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Alessio, I'm sorry. I missed the first part of what you said. Did you mention the branch of the military, what branch of the U.S. military and what type of mission these soldiers were on?

VINCI: All we know that it was an H-53E helicopter belonging to a support squadron, called the Helicopter Support Squadron. It's basically a heavy helicopter used primarily for the transport of goods, of materiel.

We understand that at the time of the crash there were four crew members on board. We've ask the U.S. military down in Sigonella what type of mission the helicopter was on, but at this time, we don't have that answer.

PHILLIPS: All right, Alessio Vinci following that news out of Italy for us. Thanks, Alessio.

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