The wreck of a 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment Apache attack helicopter perches precariously on a South Korean hillside after going down Saturday at Twin Bridges Training Area.

The wreck of a 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment Apache attack helicopter perches precariously on a South Korean hillside after going down Saturday at Twin Bridges Training Area. (Seth Robson / S&S)

TWIN BRIDGES, South Korea — The wreckage of a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter remained strewn Monday across a desolate hillside at Twin Bridges Training Area near the Demilitarized Zone, as military officials continued investigating the weekend crash.

The Apache, part of the Camp Page-based 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, is upside down at the top of a large gully, a bent rotor blade protruding into space while its tail section and rear rotor lie a short distance away, at the gully bottom.

The crash killed the pilot and co-pilot. One survived the initial impact but died later in the hospital, officials said. The Army will release their names after next of kin have been notified, said Maj. Michael Lawhorn, 2nd Infantry Division spokesman.

The downed helicopter was one of several 1-2 Apaches operating at Twin Bridges as part of the Warrior Field Training Exercise, he said. They were supporting 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment soldiers in combined arms, force-on-force training at the range. After the accident, the helicopters were grounded but infantry soldiers continued the training, he said.

Several 2-9 soldiers saw the crash but are not discussing it publicly until they’ve talked with accident investigators, Lawhorn said.

Monday, more than 40 soldiers from the 2nd ID’s 4th Battalion, 7th Armored Regiment, and from Task Force 1st Battalion, 72nd Armored Regiment, guarded the crash site, where an area the size of two football fields was taped off. Nearby, training involving Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Humvees continued.

Capt. George Steffans, 36, of San Diego, of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop 4-7, was in charge of crash site security. Last week, he and the other site guards had acted as the opposition force during the training involving the 1-2 helicopters, he said.

“We had guys who saw the helicopter go down,” said Steffans. “There was concern. The guys were concerned about the safety of the soldiers.”

After the injured victim was evacuated, 4-7 and 1-72 soldiers cordoned off the wreckage, he said.

“We have to make sure the site isn’t tampered with so the investigators can find out what went wrong. We are not sure what is there (at the crash site). It takes avionics expertise and aviation expertise to come and identify what all this equipment is,” said Steffans. “There are a lot of complex systems. They just don’t want anybody to mess with it so they can find out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

One of the 1-72 site guards, Staff Sgt. Jared Heisler, 26, of Mountainair, N.M., said he and his men set up observation posts around the crash site and were patrolling the surrounding area.

“It is rather somber being out here now that two soldiers lost their lives,” he said, staring up the snowy hillside through a mass of twisted, leafless branches at the wreck of the Apache.

South Korean police officer Lee Nyung-gon of Juksung Police Station on Monday said no private property was damaged and no South Koreans were injured in the crash, which happened inside the training area.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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