Venezuelan military helicopter crashes into navy research boat, 2 killed

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A Venezuelan military helicopter crashed into a navy research boat Tuesday and plunged into the sea, killing two people and injuring five.

The co-pilot and another crew member on the helicopter were killed, while the pilot and four crew aboard the boat were injured, Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami told state television.

The military helicopter crashed into the bow of a naval oceanographic research vessel that was in front of the Playa Valdez port off Margarita Island, Rafael Lugo, who leads a civilian marine rescue organization, told The Associated Press.

The helicopter had been involved in a rescue operation, aiding people who had been found adrift at sea on two motorboats, El Aissami said. He said the helicopter had ferried doctors to a frigate involved in the operation and had taken off from the frigate in the morning before colliding with the other ship near shore.

It was unclear what might have caused the collision.

Venezuela's military has suffered several other recent helicopter crashes.

Last month, a National Guard helicopter crashed during a counter-drug mission near the Colombian border, killing all 10 soldiers on board. In May 2009, a military helicopter patrolling near the Colombian border crashed, killing 16 soldiers and a civilian. In June 2008, an army helicopter crashed while landing at a Caracas military base, injuring two crew members but leaving passengers unhurt.