A helicopter crash at Bellows Air Force Station in Windward Oahu on Sunday killed one Marine and injured 21 others. The U.S. military said that an MV-22 Osprey from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit experienced a “hard landing” during a training exercise at the Marine Corps Training Area at Bellows.
The crash occurred at a time when the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy were hosting defense leaders from the Pacific.
According to a statement released by the Marines, the helicopter had 22 Marines on board. It crashed at 11:40 a.m. local time.
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is located at Camp Pendleton in California. The statement added that the unit has been on a seven-month deployment to the Pacific Command and Central Command areas of operation since May 10.
Investigators are looking into the cause of the incident.
According to Hawaii News Now, Marine spokesman Capt. Alex Lim said, “It’s tragic and our condolences go out to the families and the loved ones of the victim. But right now we need to investigate further and see what happened.
“I can tell you that MV-22s have been a very reliable aircraft … We’ve provided aide and assistance in the Philippines. They’re very reliable tilt rotor aircrafts.”
Kimberly Hynd, who was hiking the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, said she could see three Osprey aircrafts performing rotations in the sky. She added that she was two to three miles away, and didn’t hear the crash.
“It looked like they were doing some sort of maneuver or formation — and so I was taking pictures of it because usually you can’t see them that close up,” Hynd said, according to ABC News.
Witnesses said that they saw only two of the three aircrafts returning to the sky. Shortly thereafter, they could see black smoke rising in the air.
Donald Gahit said he looked outside his house and saw smoke rising from Bellows.
“At first I thought it was clouds, but it was moving fast and it was pretty dark,” he said.
According to USA Today, leaders from Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, among 23 nations, were expected to attend the event to watch U.S. Marines and sailors exhibit landing forces on a Hawaii beach.
The Osprey program, which is built by Boeing Co. and Bell and is a unit of Textron Inc., has had a history of mechanical malfunctioning. In 2000, two test crashes resulted in the deaths of 23 Marines.
The aircraft has since been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and have also been sent to Nepal for relief efforts.
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