US military helicopter crashes in northern Italy, killing 5

A U.S. military helicopter crashed Thursday in northern Italy, killing five of the 11 servicemembers on board, U.S. and Italian officials said.

The six injured were transported to Italian hospitals in Treviso and Padova.

The helicopter, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk, crashed in a rocky area with sparse vegetation about 12:20 p.m. in an area along the Piave River near the small town of San Michele di Piave, north of Treviso.

The helicopter was attached to the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, said Bruce Anderson, a U.S. Army Europe spokesman. The regiment is headquartered in Mannheim, Germany, but the Black Hawk that crashed was stationed at Aviano Air Base, in northern Italy.

It had taken off Thursday from Aviano, and crashed shortly after noon, Anderson said.

The names of the victims are being withheld until the U.S. military can notify next kin, according to a U.S. Army press release, which confirmed all 11 aboard the Black Hawk were U.S. servicemembers.

The cause of the crash is currently unknown.

It was not clear Thursday if those killed were crew members or passengers.

The helicopter was one of a small contingent based at Aviano operated by Company G, 52nd Aviation Regiment. It’s the largest Army unit based at Aviano, though its mission and designation has changed several times in recent years.

Currently, the unit’s primary mission is to provide transportation for military and civilian dignitaries. Anderson said he did not know if any dignitaries were on board at the time of the crash.

“It’s too early to talk about who was on board,” he said.

Firefighters arrived by helicopter at the crash site, said Gennaro Tornatore, the fire department spokesman. He did not know the team’s response time after getting the emergency call shortly after 12:20 p.m. Rescue vehicles eventually reached the scene by traversing gravel roads and over some rocky terrain.

A small fire erupted following the crash, which Italian firefighters extinguished rather quickly upon arriving at the scene, he said.

Nearly four hours after the crash, firefighters managed to pull two of the dead from the crumpled helicopter, which hit nose first, making extraction difficult, Tornatore said.

A team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center will investigate the crash.