updated 4/28/2004 1:02:04 AM ET 2004-04-28T05:02:04

An Army helicopter that vanished during a training flight was found Tuesday night on a river bank after it was spotted by a trucker, and searchers recovered the bodies of three soldiers who were aboard, Army officials said.

The wreckage of the UH-60 Black Hawk was found near a bridge off Interstate 95, about 100 miles northeast of Columbia, said Maj. Rich Patterson, a Fort Bragg spokesman at the command post here.

The helicopter was reported missing Monday night during a flight from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Florence that involved training with night vision goggles.

"The unit has spoken with the families, however, we are waiting for the official casualty notification procedures before we release the names," Patterson said. He didn't have the exact time when the bodies were recovered or where they were found.

The helicopter was spotted by a truck driver on his way home along I-95 who heard about the missing aircraft and joined the search. On his third pass through the area, he noticed tree damage and what looked like a wheel near the bank of the Great Pee Dee River and called authorities, said Dusty Owens, director of the Florence County Emergency Management.

Heavy foliage in the swampy area just north of Florence and near the North Carolina state line made it difficult to see the chopper, Owens said.

Rain and thunderstorms moved across South Carolina on Monday evening, but Army officials said the weather should not have been a factor in the helicopter's disappearance. The Army is investigating the cause of the accident.

A second helicopter on the training mission landed in a nearby airfield when it lost contact with the missing Black Hawk, Patterson said.

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