Faltering copter was able to glide to shore, U.S. military says
BAGHDAD — The pilots of a faltering Marine CH-46 helicopter that crash-landed on Sunday in Lake Qadisiya near Haditha in Anbar province were able to surf glide the aircraft to the shore, a military spokesman said Tuesday.
Four U.S. troops who were evacuated from the aircraft as a precaution drowned in the incident. Spc. Dustin M. Adkins, 22, of Finger, Tenn. Adkins was assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky.
Also identified was Air Force Capt. Kermit O. Evans, 31, of Hollandale, Miss. He was assigned to the 27th Civil Engineer Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., and deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing to Balad Air Base.
The other two names have not yet been released by the Defense Department.
The aircraft had lifted off from the U.S. base at Haditha Dam and was not involved in fighting at the time of the crash, said Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, a spokesman for Multi-National Force – Iraq. “It had experienced a power malfunction in the air,” Caldwell said during a news conference on Tuesday. “It was losing power, and it had enough power to set down into the water.
“As a precautionary measure, because they thought it could easily tip or go under, they had to evacuate everybody in the helicopter except the pilot and copilot. Both crew chiefs and all the passengers aboard exited out the back of helicopter once it got down upon the water.”
Caldwell said that the pilots were able to drive the helicopter up onto a boat ramp, where it was later recovered by U.S. forces.
Four crew members, including the pilots, and 12 passengers were aboard the aircraft. The dead were identified as two Marines, one soldier and one airman.
Caldwell also said that 126 foreign fighters were killed in November by U.S. and Iraqi forces, which was about one-quarter of all the enemy forces killed for the month. He said the largest number of foreign fighters were from Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Two of Iraq’s 18 provinces, Muthannah and Thi Qar in the south, were under direct control of their governors. The Iraqi government was expected to announce within two weeks a third province that had become self-governing.
Caldwell said that provincial control meant that local police were handling security, with support from national police and the Iraqi army. U.S. forces were only to be serving as observers, but would be able to respond if high-value, time-sensitive operations needed to be performed.
Caldwell said that as per a goal established by President Bush and Iraqi prime minister Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, all 18 provinces would be self-operating by next fall, and that by early this summer all seven Iraqi army divisions would be completely under their own command and control.