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Two soldiers killed in helicopter crash at Grafenwöhr

September 21 update from The Associated Press:

BERLIN — The U.S. Army on Thursday identified two American soldiers killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission in southern Germany.
Chief Warrant Officer Timothy R. Breneman and Chief Warrant Officer Terry M. Thomas, both of the 1st Armored Division’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, were killed in Tuesday night’s crash at the Grafenwöhr Training Area, the Army said.
Breneman, 36, was piloting the AH-64D Apache Longbow, and Thomas, 31, served as the co-pilot gunner.
Thomas died at the scene of the crash, and Breneman died nearly two hours later at the university hospital in Regensburg. The
soldiers’ hometowns were not immediately available.

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Two 1st Armored Division soldiers were killed late Tuesday night when their Apache Longbow helicopter crashed in a heavily wooded part of the training area, officials said Wednesday.

The soldiers were assigned to 1st AD’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and were based at Illesheim Army Airfield, Germany. Their names were being withheld pending notification of next of kin, 1st Armored Division officials said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Maj. Wayne Marotto, 1st AD’s public affairs officer, said the cause of the crash was under investigation. No other personnel were injured in the accident, he said.

“The Army is a close-knit family and the loss of our own affects all of us. A tragedy of this type is felt by each and every member, but we will pull together to help our own. We wish to express our deepest condolences to the family members of the two pilots,” he said.

“I can assure you the Army will conduct a thorough investigation in the hope something like this will never happen again.”

The 12th CAB has been at Grafenwöhr since Sept. 5 conducting annual aerial gunnery exercises. The training involved Apache crews training on a series of qualification tables to test their ability to engage and destroy targets with the helicopter’s weapons, Marotto said.

“The entire brigade continues to conduct Iron Warrior convoy live-fire training on the ground, but aerial gunnery has been temporarily suspended in light of the aircraft accident,” he said.

Joint Multinational Training Command spokesman Chuck Gordon said the aircraft was training on Grafenwöhr’s Range 301 when the accident happened.

“It went down in the area of ranges 301 and 305,” he said.

JMTC did not have information about where the aircraft began its flight. Aircraft operating in the training area often take off from Grafenwöhr Army Air Field, but helicopters are able to take off and land from many different places in the training area.

JMTC refused a request to visit or photograph the crash site on Wednesday.

“The aircraft went down in heavily wooded terrain within the impact area. It is also heavily ‘dud-ed.’ In other words, there is a great amount of unexploded ordnance from years past training,” Gordon said.

The terrain and ordnance created a delay for rescue crews in getting to the aircraft, Marotto said, but recovery efforts were under way Wednesday.

The helicopter crash is the second accident involving U.S. aircraft in Germany this month.

Last week, an Air Force F-16 fighter jet based at Spangdahlem Air Base crashed while on a training flight in western Germany. The pilot ejected safely.

The pilot in that crash had to ditch his plane after a landing gear malfunction. The aircraft crashed near the village of Oberkeil, the Air Force said. U.S. Air Force officials are investigating.


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