An Army helicopter clipped a wire on a television transmission tower and crashed Thursday, killing four members of an elite combat unit on a training mission, officials said.
A fifth soldier aboard the MH-47 Chinook helicopter suffered only minor injuries, said Lisa Eichhorn, a spokeswoman for Fort Rucker, Ala., home to an Army helicopter training school where the soldiers were headed.
The helicopter had left Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah and went down in rural Colquitt County, about 170 miles west, said sheriff’s dispatcher Becky Perry.
It clipped a wire as it flew past a television station’s 1,000-foot tower, said Deborah Owens, station manager of WFXL.
The chopper’s crew was from the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
The elite unit, also known as the Night Stalkers, uses MH-47 Chinooks to fly special forces commandos behind enemy lines under cover of night.
The soldiers’ names were not immediately released.
Angela Tyner, 32, heard the crash, dialed 911 and then jumped in her pickup truck and drove to the nearby cow pasture where the wreckage lay.
For one, ‘a miracle he was alive’
Flames and smoke were coming from the helicopter’s engine, she said. She said she saw two bodies, then she noticed the survivor walking along a fence with a cut above his eye and a few scratches on his hands.
“It was a miracle he was alive,” Tyner said.
She helped the man to her truck until an ambulance arrived.
Officials were uncertain whether the collision with the television tower caused the crash or whether the helicopter was already in trouble. Eichhorn said a team from Fort Rucker would investigate.
Two members of a TV crew from Tallahassee, Fla., were arrested by sheriff’s deputies and charged with obstruction after allegedly trying to access the secure area.
The two were working for WTXL, the city’s ABC affiliate. The station had no comment on the arrests when reached Thursday afternoon.