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Hard Afghan landing wrecks U.S. helicopter

A U.S. military helicopter was destroyed by a hard landing during an operation to hunt insurgents in Afghanistan, but there were no casualties, the military said Thursday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Chinook helicopter carrying six U.S.-led coalition crew and 25 Afghan troops was destroyed by a fire after making a hard landing near the Pakistan border, the U.S. military said Thursday. No one was hurt.

The accident came as the massive, twin-rotor chopper was rushing troops to combat militants near Spin Boldak, a town close to the border with Pakistan, a military statement said. It said hostile fire was not involved.

“It made a hard landing because it hit the ground hard, due in part because of reduced visibility caused by debris and dust thrown up from the ground by the helicopter’s rotors,” U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara said. “Because of the force of the landing, a fire ensued, which destroyed the aircraft.”

He said there were no casualties among the six crew members or the 25 coalition troops on board. But another spokeswoman, Lt. Cindy Moore, said the troops were Afghan, not coalition.

Both O’Hara and Moore declined to identify the nationality of the six crew members.

The accident comes a month after a Chinook that had been modified for special forces operations was shot down in eastern Kunar province, also near the border with Pakistan, killing all 16 U.S. forces on board.

In April, 15 U.S. service members and three American civilians were killed when their Chinook went down in a sandstorm while returning to the main U.S. base at Bagram.

In a separate statement Thursday, the military released the findings of an investigation into the cause of that crash. It said “the aircraft encountered a severe dust storm with winds over 45 knots that caused the pilots to lose outside visibility.”

“They were transitioning to instrument flight procedures when they became spatially disoriented and over-controlled the aircraft,” it said.

The statement said the 18 on board comprised five Army crew members, six Army soldiers, one Marine, two Army National Guard soldiers, one Army Reserve Soldier, and three civilian contractors with KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root.