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The Army has concluded that a deadly helicopter crash in Afghanistan in April was caused by several weather-related factors.

The CH-47 Chinook was flying cargo and passengers from one forward operating base to another on April 6 when it crashed. The five-member crew from the Germany-based Company F, 159th Aviation Regiment, 12th Aviation Brigade and all 13 passengers were killed. That includes four troops assigned to Camp Ederle, Italy.

The passengers on the flight included nine soldiers, one Marine and three civilian contractors.

“We mourn the loss of this crew and its passengers and will never forget their selfless service and sacrifice,” Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-76, was quoted as saying in a command news release. He said commanders have studied the results of the investigation and have made some changes.

The investigation, which involved experts from the task force and the Army’s Collateral Investigation Board, determined several reasons for the crash, including a severe change in weather, poor visibility and “pilot disorientation due to poor visibility.”

According to the release, investigators determined that the helicopter encountered a dust storm with winds of more than 45 knots (about 52 miles an hour).

The pilots lost all outside visibility, became disoriented and the helicopter crashed.

Military officials said family members of those killed received copies of the report late last month.

Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, a CJTF-76 spokesman, said all aspects of such operations were reviewed after the crash and the investigation.

“From our perspective, the investigation is complete,” he said. “Corrective actions have been taken.”

Those measures include: stricter standards on flying in bad weather, increased weather monitoring, more training for bad-weather scenarios and reorganizing the manifest system.

Helicopters continue to play a vital role in the mission by ferrying passengers and supplies to bases that aren’t easily reached by any other means in the mountainous country.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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