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Camp Pendleton, California: helicopter crash kills two US marines

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An AH-1W Cobra assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 passes over the target area during a close air support exercise in Yuma.
Image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Justin L Wainscott.

Two U.S. Marines were killed at Camp Pendleton, California when their AH-1W Cobra Helicopter, belonging to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, crashed on Monday at about 1 p.m. local time. The crash occurred in the southeast corner of the base, near the community of Fallbrook.

The Marines were pronounced dead at the scene. They were named as Captain Jeffrey Bland and First Lieutenant Thomas Heitmann.

The crash started a brush fire that reportedly spread to about 50 acres in three hours, later 120 acres, but was about 80% contained, within the base, by Monday evening. The Fallbrook Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service are assisting.

The crash is the latest in a series of accidents in southern California involving U.S. Marine Corps flight training. An investigation is still underway to discover what caused this latest accident. The Marines have ordered an "operational pause" for all training flights for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. The pause also applies to aircraft training at the Yuma and Miramar bases as well as Camp Pendleton.

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