Major general describes 'tough day' searching for crash victims
HAMMOND - Louisiana National Guard leaders said they've notified families of Guard members who disappeared and are presumed dead after a helicopter crash overnight.
"It's a tough day," Major General Glenn Curtis told reporters at a news conference in Hammond. Curtis said he plans to visit the families of those Guard members in person later Wednesday.
Four soldiers based in Louisiana and seven Marines from a special operations group at Camp Lejeune are all presumed dead in the crash. The Pentagon said a UH-60 Black Hawk the soldiers were in went down in heavy fog during training at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. A Marine spokesperson said they were practicing using small boats and helicopters to get troops in and out of a target site when the incident happened.
Curtis said there were two helicopters on the training mission, but the heavy fog caused one to turn back before the second crashed.
"One of them started to take off and then realized there was a weather condition and turned around and came back," he said.
The heavy fog hampered search efforts Wednesday, forcing the Coast Guard to refrain from sending helicopters into the area until 1 p.m. CT.
The Associated Press reported Kim Urr, who works at the nearby Navarre Beach campground, said she heard a strange sound, followed by two explosions around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Debris washed up on beaches in the area where the crash happened, and officials reported finding body parts of some victims.
Curtis said the Guard members had were "very experienced" with several thousand hours of flight time. He said three of the four soldiers were also involved in rescue missions during Hurricane Katrina, and assisted in the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Curtis also said he'd received calls from President Barack Obama and Governor Bobby Jindal concerning the crash.