LOS ANGELES — Seven Marines were killed Wednesday night when two helicopters collided during training exercises in the desert along the California-Arizona border, the Marine Corps said Thursday.
Lt. Maureen Dooley, with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, said an AH-1W Cobra and a UH-1Y Huey crashed around 8 p.m. Wednesday during routine training operations near the Yuma Training Range Complex. There were no survivors.
Six of the Marines, serving with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, had been stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near San Diego, while the seventh victim was stationed at the Yuma Training Range. Their names will not be released until the Marine Corps has notified next of kin, Dooley said.
An investigation into the cause of the crash was under way, but Dooley described the weather Wednesday night as “pretty mild.”
“Until the investigation is done, we won’t know exactly what caused the incident,” she said.
Though the exact location of the crash has not been determined, Marine officials believe the helicopters went down just on the California side of the state line, near the Chocolate Mountains. The area is a favorite training ground for the military because the dusty, mountainous terrain mimics conditions in parts of Afghanistan, while the clear weather allows for flying at almost all times.
Mark Bobbi, a senior military aircraft analyst for the consulting firm IHS Jane’s, said there was no evidence of systematic problems with either helicopter. But he said that for the past couple of years, more Marine helicopters had crashed in domestic training missions than in combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. One reason is that many of those training exercises are conducted under combatlike conditions: at night, in the desert, ‘with multiple helicopters flying very low, very fast and very close together.