KUWAIT CITY – A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter on night training crashed Tuesday in the Kuwaiti desert, killing all four crew members. The Kuwaiti military said sandstorms were reported in the area at the time the chopper went down.
The aircraft, which belonged to the Army's V Corps, was part of the force that has massed in this Persian Gulf emirate for a possible invasion of Iraq.
The Pentagon identified those killed Tuesday as Spc. Rodrigo Gonzalez-Garza, 26, of Texas; Chief Warrant Officer Timothy W. Moehling, 35, of Florida; Chief Warrant Officer John D. Smith, 32, of Nevada; and Spc. William J. Tracy, 27, of New Hampshire.
Kuwait army spokesman Col. Youssef al-Mulla said the helicopter went down in bad weather. Sandstorms and high winds were reported overnight and continued Tuesday afternoon.
The UH-60 Black Hawk crashed about 1 a.m. near Camp New Jersey about 30 miles northwest of Kuwait City, an Army statement said.
The helicopter was part of the 158th Aviation Regiment, 5th Battalion, of the 12th Aviation Brigade based in Giebelstadt, Germany. The group is attached to V Corps' 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment, which is part of some 9,000 troops from the corps deployed as part of the recent U.S. buildup. It includes a headquarters unit commanded by Lt. Gen. William Wallace.
V Corps spokesman Bill Roche said from the corps headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, that it was still too early to speculate about a cause of the crash.
"A V Corps safety team is already on site, and then additional people are coming in from the U.S. Army Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Ala.," Roche said.
The bodies are expected to be brought back to Germany, Roche said.
The helicopter was one of two V Corps helicopters participating in the exercise. The other returned safely.
On Jan. 30, an MH-60, an adapted version of the Black Hawk, crashed in a training mission seven miles east of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Four members of an elite aviation regiment were killed.
More than 70,000 U.S. troops are training in the Kuwaiti desert in preparation for a possible invasion of Iraq. President Bush has threatened to use force to disarm Baghdad of weapons of mass destruction if it does not do so voluntarily according to U.N. resolutions. Iraq denies it has such weapons.