updated 1/2/2007 8:54:16 PM ET 2007-01-03T01:54:16

A California National Guard helicopter ferrying Border Patrol agents crashed in a rural area near the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday, injuring all nine people aboard, authorities said.

Five Border Patrol agents and four members of the Guard were aboard the UH-1 helicopter, said Col. Dave Baldwin, director of planning and operations for the California National Guard.

Five people with neck and back injuries were airlifted to hospitals, said Jan Caldwell, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

The aircraft went down in the Otay Mountain area east of San Diego, authorities said. The helicopter, one of the older models used by the Guard, was on a routine mission, Baldwin said, taking agents either to or from a remote site along the border.

It was not clear how the helicopter crashed. It came to rest on its belly, its top rotor was snapped off and what appeared to be its tail was thrust to the side.

California National Guard Capt. Mike Morgan said the UH-1 was on a mission for Operation Jumpstart, taking the border agents to mountainous areas inaccessible by vehicle.

The operation stems from a plan announced last year by President Bush to deploy as many as 6,000 National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border for about two years to help local and federal law enforcers stop illegal immigration.

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