Official: High-ranking instructor pilots involved in crash

Two Black Hawk helicopters were involved in a training mission Tuesday night, but one pilot turned around due to weather conditions, Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis said at a press conference at the National Guard post in Hammond, La.

The second helicopter crashed over Navarre Sound at around 8:30 p.m., and recovery efforts are still underway.

“At this hour, my priorities are for the search and rescue efforts for our soldiers and our Marines,” Curtis said. “Secondly it’s to take care of our families.”

“This will remain a search and rescue operation until further notice,” he said. “I will not release any names at this time.”

Curtis said both pilots were instructor pilots, which is the highest possible rank, and said the pilots, along with the crew, had “thousands of hours in the cockpit and thousands of hours in combat.”

“They are very cognizant of weather conditions before they depart on a mission,” he said. “But you can depart from one station and hit weather that you didn’t expect, so the conditions have to right for them to take off. What they run into while they’re airborne is a different story.”

Curtis said a full-on investigation will be conducted.

He said the all-male crew left Louisiana Sunday night.

“We were supporting the Marine Corp.,” he said. “We were doing lift operations for them.”

“It’s a normal course of business for us to work across the services in training,” he said.

He said the National Guard unit has about 385 soldiers and is a “very experienced unit, one that has received numerous accolades.”

The unit completed two tours in Iraq – one in 2004-05 and another in 2008-09. Curtis said the unit also responded to various natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

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