SAVANNAH, Ga. – A member of an elite Army helicopter unit was killed and two crew members suffered injuries when their aircraft slammed into the ground as they tried to land at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, a military spokesman said Thursday.
The MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was returning from a routine training flight when it made a "hard landing" just before 11:30 p.m. Wednesday on or near the airstrip at the base in coastal Georgia, said Army Maj. Allen Hill, a spokesman for the crew's aviation unit.
The three-man crew was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which trains soldiers to fly helicopters behind enemy lines under cover of darkness. Nicknamed the Night Stalkers, the unit was responsible for flying Navy SEALs into Pakistan during the 2010 raid in which Osama Bin Laden was killed. The 160th regiment is headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky., but has a battalion stationed in Savannah.
Hill said Thursday the Army was still investigating what went wrong at the end of the training flight late Wednesday.
"They were on final approach," he said. "Nothing seemed out of the ordinary."
Hill said he did not know how badly the helicopter was damaged or if it landed on the tarmac or in the grass. Local television news footage taken from a distance showed the aircraft leaning to one side near the base's runway.
Though the helicopter hit the ground with enough force to kill and injure crew members, Hill insisted the aircraft had not crashed.
"The difference is in a hard landing the pilot had more control, as opposed to a crash which would have been something more severe," Hill said.
Names of the soldiers involved were being withheld pending notification of their families. The two injured crew members were taken to a local hospital. Hill said he did not know how seriously they had been hurt.
The helicopter went down not far from the main gate of Hunter Army Airfield, which shares Savannah's south side with its main shopping centers and suburban neighborhoods.