Air Force Helicopter Crashes into Great Salt Lake; 13 Believed Killed
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AP) _ As many as 13 people were believed killed in the crash of an Air Force helicopter into the Great Salt Lake, a law enforcement source said today.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said searchers had recovered some of the bodies from the crash site, 13 miles west of northern Utah’s Hill Air Force Base. The source couldn’t say exactly how many people were killed or how many bodies had been recovered.
The source said some bodies were pushed by the tide and winds into deeper waters. Clusters of bodies were spotted from the air and recovered by crews in boats, the source said.
Hill spokesman Dave Kendziora said he could not confirm the report. ″I just do not know that,″ he said.
The MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from Florida crashed Thursday night about 100 yards from an island in the lake. Air Force spokesmen said they could not say how many were aboard. The helicopter normally carries a crew of three and may also carry another 12 passengers.
Gusty winds, accompanied by lightning and rain, periodically hammered the search area, hampering the search. ″It’s just difficult to conduct the search. It has at times been raining very hard,″ Kendziora said.
The weather and darkness forced officials to suspend the search at 4 a.m., but rain and lightning eased enough to allow the search to resume a few hours later, said Hill spokeswoman Francis Kosakowsky.
Earlier, after seven hours of searching, the Davis County Sheriff’s Office said only one person had been rescued. An unidentified man was in serious condition at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City with cuts on the right leg and over the left eye.
George Grimes, spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., said the helicopter was assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Air Force Base but may have been stationed with squadrons elsewhere in Florida.
It was on a joint Army-Air Force exercise; the passengers could have included Army personnel, Grimes said.
The exercise involved patrolling, raids, ambushes and light fire exercises, said Hill spokesman Len Barry.