Five US troopers die in Honduras

An American Black Hawk helicopter crashed in central Honduras during a night training exercise, killing five U.S. soldiers. The helicopter, from Soto Cano Air Force Base in Palmerola, Honduras, went down at 8:55 p.m. Wednesday while on routine training, said Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Florida. "Right now, we are classifying it as a training accident,'' Costello said Thursday. "It is being investigated.'' There had been heavy rains in the area over the past three days, but the cause of the crash was not known. U.S. Army South spokesman Maj. Rich Crusan confirmed that five crew members were aboard the helicopter. He said the bodies would be returned to Soto Cano Air Force Base. The unit involved in the crash was assigned to Joint Task Force Bravo, the U.S. military command that conducts training, counter-drug, and humanitarian missions in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Many of its members helped Central America recover after Hurricane Mitch killed thousands and caused billions of dollars in damage in 1998. The task force's spokesman, Master Sgt. Guy Volb, said the unit is ``like a very small town. Our community is so closely knit it affects everybody. It's a pretty sad day for us here.''

The control tower at La Mesa international airport in San Pedro Sula, about 110 miles north of the capital Tegucigalpa, reported that the helicopter had arrived there from the Palmerola base to participate in a night landing exercise. After filling up with fuel, it headed back to the base and crashed 40 minutes after taking off into the mountains near Santa Cruz de Yojoa, 85 miles north of the capital, Tegucigalpa. Honduran and U.S. soldiers participated in the rescue operations. The helicopter was destroyed.

During the 1980s US intervention in Central America, the base was the main U.S. military operations center in the area.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

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