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Spokane soldier dies in Afghanistan

Thu., Dec. 2, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan – Search teams have recovered the bodies of Spc. Harley David Miller, of Spokane, and five other Americans who died when their plane crashed high in Afghanistan’s snow-covered mountains, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.

The plane went down Saturday, but search efforts were complicated by bad weather and difficult terrain, said military spokesman Maj. Mark McCann.

“We regret to report that all six individuals on board the aircraft – the three U.S. civilian crew members and three U.S. soldiers – were killed in the crash,” McCann said.

Aboard the plane was Miller, a 21-year-old helicopter repair specialist. An Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon said Miller was born in Sandpoint and listed his hometown as Spokane. He apparently graduated from the Contract-Based Education program of West Valley High School in 2002, the same year he enlisted in the Army. The spokeswoman said Miller still had family in Washington state, although not in Spokane, but she could not release their names.

The Army identified the other military casualties as Lt. Col. Michael J. McMahon, 41, of Connecticut, and Chief Warrant Officer Travis W. Grogan, 31, of Virginia Beach, Va. All three were part of the 4th Cavalry Regiment of the 25th Light Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The civilian victims’ names will be released later by Florida-based Presidential Airways, which contracted the CASA 212 transport plane to the Air Force, McCann said.

A plane carrying the bodies of the six victims back to the United States left Bagram on Tuesday, bound for Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, McCann said.

“An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the crash. However, at this time, we have no indication this crash was caused by hostile fire,” McCann said.

The bodies were found amid the debris of the plane in the Hindu Kush mountains, southeast of Bamiyan. McCann said the plane’s flight recorder had been retrieved, but it was not clear what it showed about the crash.

He said the plane crashed en route to Farah, in western Afghanistan. However, a senior U.S. general said it was headed for Shindand, 60 miles farther north.

“The indications we have is that it got into a valley and tried to gain altitude quickly,” Maj. Gen. Eric Olson said. “The pilot apparently recognized that he was not going to be able to gain altitude quickly enough and tried to make a very dramatic turn, didn’t make it and crashed into a very narrow valley.”


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