Nepal Says Civilians Were on Crashed US Helicopter, Toll Now 13

Nepalese military service members unload supplies from a UH-1Y Huey in Charikot, Nepal on May 5. (Marine photo)
Nepalese military service members unload supplies from a UH-1Y Huey in Charikot, Nepal on May 5. (Marine photo)

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A U.S. military helicopter that crashed in Nepal last month on an earthquake relief mission was carrying five more passengers than first thought, raising the death toll to 13, Nepal's army said Friday.

Authorities initially said six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers were killed.

DNA tests and investigations by experts from both countries confirmed that five other people on the chopper were local villagers, the army said in a statement. The five reportedly were injured people being transported to a medical facility.

The UH-1 "Huey" helicopter crashed May 12 in the northeastern mountains, and the wreckage was found after days of intense searching. The first three charred bodies were retrieved by Nepalese and U.S. military teams, and the rest were found a day later.

The U.S. relief mission was deployed after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. A magnitude-7.3 quake struck on May 12 and hours later the helicopter crashed.

Four of the Marines were part of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California. Two other Marines were combat cameramen based in Japan.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. U.S. military officials have said that an Indian helicopter in the air nearby heard radio chatter from the Huey about a possible fuel problem.

Earlier this week, a private helicopter chartered by Doctors Without Borders crashed after hitting power cables, killing all four people on board. Three victims were Nepalese and the other was a Dutch woman.

The government and aid agencies have used helicopters to carry relief materials to mountainous regions where earthquake damage or the lack of existing roads has made delivery of aid all but impossible.

The two earthquakes have killed more than 8,700 people, injured thousands and destroyed many buildings.

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