Local News

82nd Airborne Soldiers Victims of Crash

Posted June 1, 2007 12:41 p.m. EDT
Updated June 1, 2007 6:57 p.m. EDT

— The 82nd Airborne Division confirmed Friday the five soldiers who died when a helicopter went down Wednesday in Afghanistan were from Fort Bragg.

The division said the soldiers, whose names haven't been released, were crew members of the CH-47 Chinook from Task Force Pegasus of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. Two other people from NATO countries were also killed in the crash.

Maj. Tom Earnhardt, director of public affairs for the 82nd Airborne, said there is no clear indication why the helicopter crashed. The incident is under investigation, he said.

"This is a stark reminder of the sacrifice facing our paratroopers and their families," Earnhardt said at a Friday afternoon news conference outside Fort Bragg.

Three of Fort Bragg's four brigades are already deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fourth is scheduled to deploy this summer.

The Chinook was on a routine troop movement in the Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, which is considered a hostile environment, and was leaving the area after dropping off about 40 paratroopers when it crashed, he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for attacking the aircraft, and a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force has said initial indications suggested enemy fire may have brought down the Chinook.

A U.S. military official, who insisted on speaking anonymously because the crash was under investigation, has said reports suggested the helicopter was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

But Lt. Col. David Accetta, the top U.S. military spokesman at Bagram Air Base, has said enemy fire was only one of several possibilities.

The deaths bring the total number of 82nd Airborne members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to 121, Earnhardt said. In April, nine paratroopers were killed in Iraq -- the division's worst one-day loss in more than a decade -- when two car bombs exploded in the Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad.

"The loss of any paratrooper is tragic, and it's unacceptable. We're a family, sort of a brotherhood," Earnhardt said. "When adversity and tragedy strike us, the mood is generally resolute. We've got to pick up and get on with it. That doesn't diminish the loss."

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at Bagram Air Base. No service has been scheduled at Fort Bragg, he said.