MFO Commanders Salutes Dead Americans With AM-Gander-Crash, Bjt
El-GORAH, Egypt (AP) _ The commander of the multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai on Friday saluted the U.S. members of the force killed when their plane crashed in Canada as ″among the finest troops I have seen in my career.″
Flags flew at half-staff over the bases of the force Friday in memory of the Americans, and memorial services were planned for Monday at two different bases.
Norwegian Lt. Gen. Egil J. Ingebrigtsen, field commander of the U.S.-sponsored Multinational Force and Observers, told reporters that 248 American members of the 101st Airborne Division died Thursday in the Newfoundland crash.
Canadian and U.S. officials initially put the total death toll at 250 servicemen and eight crew members. But the Pentagon on Friday revised the number of servicemen killed from 250 to 248, reducing the total death toll to 256.
Ingebrigtsen said 1,180 U.S. soldiers remain in the Sinai, including 221 from the 101st Airborne Division.
He also said the force will stop using Arrow Air, the Florida-based charter company that owned the DC-8 jetliner, until the crash investigation is completed.
Arrow Air has been the sole charter company handling troop rotations since the force was organized in 1982 to police the border area between Israel and Egypt, the general said.
Now, ″we are considering other carriers to do this rotation,″ including U.S. military transport aircraft, he said.
″All of the U.S. troops here have been greatly shocked and saddened,″ Ingebrigtsen said in a statement he read at his el-Gorah headquarters, 12 miles west of the Israeli border. ″These men gave their lives in the cause of peace.″
″As force commander, I spent much time with the U.S. battalion, with these young men and women, during the last few months, and I think I certainly knew them well,″ he said.
″I listened to them, inspected them, talked with them, joked with them, not only at the camp and their headquarters down at Sharm el-Sheikh, but also many, many times out at the lonely observation and control points they manned throughout the southern sector of the Sinai.
″And I say they were among the finest troops I have seen in my career, both the leaders and the soldiers, and this is not eyewash, I really mean it,″ Ingebrigtsen said. ″This is a tragic loss to the families, to the United States, to the MFO and to all people of peace throughout the world.″
The DC-8 crashed just after taking off from a refueling stop at Gander International Airport in eastern Canada. The flight originated in Cairo and made a refueling stop at Cologne, West Germany. It was taking troops to their home base in Fort Campbell, Ky., after a six-month tour of duty in the Sinai.
Americans make up about half of the force’s 2,600 troops and are based in the southernmost sectors of the peninsula bordering the Gulf of Aqaba, from Sharm el-Sheik at the southern tip to the Israeli city of Eilat.
The force has 50 separate, often-isolated installations spread throughout the Sinai, a region comprised mainly of rocky desert with massive granite and limestone hills.
Fourteen force members had been killed previously in accidents and military exercises, Ingebrigtsen said.