NAIROBI, Kenya – The 10 U.S. troops missing after two Marine Corps transport helicopters crashed into the sea have been accounted for, the military said Saturday, but it did not specify whether they had survived the mishap.
The CH-53E choppers, carrying a dozen crew and troops, went down Friday in the Gulf of Aden, near the northern coastal town of Ras Siyyan.
The cause of the crash was unclear, but there was no indication of hostile fire and an investigation was under way, said Maj. Susan Romano of the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.
The Djibouti military rescued two crew members, who were to be transported Saturday to the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Romano said.
The 10 other crew members were accounted for after rescuers searched the waters off Djibouti's coast.
"Crew members have been accounted for from the crash of two CH-53E helicopters off the coast of Djibouti Friday," according to a statement from the joint task force headquarters at Camp Lemonier, a French military base in Djibouti.
The statement said no further information about the crew's condition would be released because "next-of-kin notifications are still ongoing." Search and rescue efforts at the crash site have been curtailed, but crews were still hunting for relevant information, equipment and wreckage as an investigation into the cause of the crash was under way, according to the task force statement.
The crew who were rescued Friday were listed in stable condition.
The search-and-rescue mission by troops from the United States, Djibouti and France also located a large portion of a CH-53E helicopter, Romano said.
Several ships in the region, including U.S., French and Italian vessels, offered to help the rescue mission, the task force statement said, while a Djibouti-based French Puma helicopter and two U.S. SH-60B helicopters from the USS Vicksburg provided aerial support.
Members of the Djiboutian military notified U.S. officials Friday evening about the crashes.
"The helicopters were flying a two-hour training mission in the Godoria Range area in northern Djibouti," a statement said. Visibility had been good at the time, with light winds.
The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, set up in the former French colony in June 2002, is responsible for fighting terrorism in nine countries in the region: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia in Africa and Yemen on the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.
The helicopters are part of the HMH 464 squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C.