Fatal US Army helicopter collision in Iraq blamed on enemy fire

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A similar OH-58 Kiowa Warrior takes off in Iraq

A collision between two United States military helicopters in Iraq that killed four last month has been blamed on enemy fire. The two OH-58 Kiowa Warriors had been on a mission in Kirkuk when they were targeted and struck each other during evasive action, killing all those on board.

The anouncement on the involvement of hostile fire, which had previously been ruled out, was made at Fort Drum shortly after a memorial service for the two crews, who had been based there. The Army said that forensic evidence revealed the presence of enemy fire.

"The two OH-58D helicopters were engaged and struck by hostile fire while conducting a reconnaissance mission," said a Fort Drum spokeswoman. The Agence France-Presse was told that the investigation "determined that the two OH-58 helicopters involved in the January 25 incident [sic] in Kirkuk province were engaged and struck by hostile fire," and that "While executing evasive manoeuvres in response to the hostile fire, the two OH-58s collided, resulting in the catastrophic loss of both aircraft and crews," by a US Army spokesman for northern Iraq. There is no indication as in to the precise nature of the attack.

Sunni nationalist extremist group Nakshabandiya had handed out leaflets after the attack saying they had shot the aircraft down and "would soon show a video," later repeating this claim on their website. The group has ties to Saddam Hussein's fugitive deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri.

The death toll was the highest for US soldiers in a single event for four months in Iraq. The four men were Philip E. Windorski Jr., Matthew Kelley, Joshua Tillery and Benjamin Todd, all Warrant Officers with the 10th Mountain Division's 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. All are survived by their wives and children.