Washington Post reports crash caused by ‘spatial disorientation’

The Washington Post is reporting that an investigation by U.S. Special Operations Command and the Louisiana National Guard determined the March 10 helicopter crash that killed 11 decorated servicemen was caused by “spatial disorientation, in which human senses lose track of where they are in space.”

The crash occurred when two UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, piloted by Louisiana National Guard crews based in Hammond, La., took off from Destin Executive Airport for a routine training mission.

Mike Spaits, a spokesman for Eglin Air Force Base, said the mission was located in area A-17, between Navarre and Fort Walton Beach.The units were temporarily assigned to Eglin to practice insertion and extraction techniques using helicopters and small boats.

The helicopters, which each carried seven Special Operations Command Marines and four soldiers, departed between 3 and 4 p.m., according to Okaloosa County Airports Director Sunil Harman.

Weather Service records indicate conditions in Navarre deteriorated quickly with visibility of 7 miles around 7 p.m., dropping to less than 2 miles just before 8 p.m. According to the Weather Service, by 9 p.m., visibility in Navarre was three-quarters of a mile.

The crash occurred at around 8:30 p.m., roughly 5 miles east of the Navarre Beach Bridge.

The second Black Hawk helicopter landed at Hurlburt Field instead of returning to the Destin airport, according to Louisiana National Guard spokesman Col. Pete Schneider. 

The full report is expected to be released Thursday.

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