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article imageSeven Marines killed in midair helicopter collision

By Yukio Strachan     Feb 24, 2012 in World
Preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, seven Marines were killed Wednesday night when two helicopters collided over the California desert in one of the Marine Corps' deadliest aviation training accidents in years.
The Marines were flying in a secluded area of the sprawling 1.2-million-acre Yuma Training Range Complex all part of a two-week training called “Scorpion Fire” that involves about 450 troops from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, reports Z6Mag.
According to Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Dunk, a spokesperson for Air Station Yuma, four helicopters were taking part in the nighttime exercises. The aircraft were practicing take-off and landing maneuvers, Dunk said.
Two of the aircraft, an AH-1 W Cobra attack helicopter and UH-1 Huey transport helicopter were both carrying explosives and were training together.
The Huey and Cobra collided at 8:45 pm local time 65 miles northwest of the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, said Col. Robert Kuckuk, Air Station Commander for the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma at press conference on Thursday afternoon, The Arizona Republic reported.
The remote areas surrounding this Marine Corps town are favored for helicopter training, in part, because the hot and dusty desert landscape resembles that of war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, said the Marine Corps Times.
“We have aircraft going out to Yuma training ranges on a weekly basis, and they go out there primarily because the aircraft mimics what they will see in Afghanistan.” said Lt. Maureen Dooley, with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. The Marines on board the helicopters were prepping for deployment to Afghanistan.
Military officials report that weather did not appear to play a factor in the crash, but visibility may have been limited by the nightfall and the amount of dust. Something that is referred to as a “brown out” and is created by the helicopters landing and taking off, Z6mag reported.
But Lieutenant Dooley added, “We won’t know exactly what happened until the investigation is complete, and we can’t make any assumptions right now.”
The Fallen Marines
Marine Corps Times reported that all families involved were notified of the deaths by noon Thursday. Under Department of Defense policy, the names of the fallen soldiers will not be released until midday today.
But last night, family members identified one of the marines as Sgt. Justin Everett, KTLA 5 reports.
The station says Everett,33, was preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan, his fourth wartime tour of duty.
He leaves behind a wife, Holly and two young children.
Also, on the official Facebook page of the United States Marine Corps family members identified another marine as Lance Corporal Corey Allen Little.
"My brother, Lance Corporal Corey Allen Little, is one of the fallen 7," Jaimie Little writes "Rest in peace big brother. I will see you again soon, save me a seat next to you in Heaven."
"My cousin was one of the 7 - I love you Corey Little," Brian Little writes, "and I am proud of you! Thank you to ALL military who fight for my freedom."
Of those seven killed, one was from Yuma, Arizona while the other six were based at Camp Pendleton, California.
"This is a dynamic, very tight-knit wing," said U.S. Navy Capt. Irving Elson, the Aircraft Wing's senior chaplain to the Orange County Register. "The tragedy didn't just happen to the squadron, it happened to the Marine Corps, it happened to the nation and it happened to us."
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