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Six Die In Army Exercise When Helicopters Collide Falling Wreckage Narrowly Misses More Soldiers On Ground

Two Army transport helicopters collided and plummeted to the ground Tuesday just before soldiers were to descend to a mockup of a downed helicopter and “rescue” soldiers pretending to be injured. Six people were killed and 30 were injured.

The accident - the military’s second fatal helicopter collision in just over a month - occurred during the afternoon when the main rotor blades of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters hit each other, said Maj. Joe Howell, a post spokesman.

The helicopters fell from treetop level, and narrowly avoided crashing directly on top of the area where soldiers on the ground were lying around a plywood mockup of another helicopter, said Howell, who witnessed the crash.

Howell said nine of the injured were in critical condition, including four that were transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. Nineteen other soldiers and two civilians also were injured, Howell said. The two civilians, hit by flying debris, were treated and released, Howell said.

Howell, who was clearly shaken, said he did not believe the helicopters had gotten into position yet to let the soldiers rappel out.

Howell said a group of about 22 civilians were watching the mock medical evacuation. The two helicopters were to hover overhead and soldiers were to descend on ropes to treat the injured and then airlift them away.

Some of the spectators were from the Association of the U.S. Army, or AUSA. AUSA is devoted to boosting cooperation between Army bases and businesses in towns nearby.

They were sitting on bleachers about 100 yards from the crash site. The group just happened to be at the post at the time of the exercise and had been allowed to watch, Howell said.

Howell said one civilian videotaped the accident. The tape has been turned over to Army investigators from Fort Rucker, Ala.

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