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Fri, Jan 18, 2008

Three Lost In Navy Sea Dragon Accident

Fourth Crewmember In Critical Condition

The US Navy says three members of a helicopter crew are dead, a fourth in critical condition, after their MH-53 Sea Dragon hit the ground and exploded in flames about 2000 CST Wednesday night near Corpus Christi, TX.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports the Navy confirms the accident occurred during a training mission, at night, in heavy fog, next to a 1,000-foot, guyed broadcast tower. The Navy would not say whether the helo is thought to have collided with the tower or its guy wires.

CNN displayed video footage of the burning wreckage in a field about four miles south of Corpus Christi. Ed Mackley with the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command is quoted as confirming that the fire started after impact.

The Caller-Times interviewed witness J.D. Batten, who said he was walking on his property about two miles from the crash site when he heard a helicopter overhead. "I saw a red-glowing fireball shoot hundreds of feet up into the air," he told the paper. "I heard a giant boom a second later. It was then dead silent, and I couldn't hear the helicopter anymore."

Rescuers reportedly found bodies of three crew members about 2:30am Central Time on Thursday. Mackley said a fourth was in critical condition at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi. The dead were not immediately identified.

Mackley added, "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families."

The paper reported firefighters and a busload of military personnel searched the muddy area surrounding the crash site for hours after making their way past downed power lines.

First responders to the crash site were hindered by downed power lines, according to the Caller-Times report. The paper said firefighters and a busload of military personnel searched the muddy area surrounding the crash site for hours.

Mackley says a military investigation will be conducted.

FMI: www.navy.mil

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