Deadly Helo Crash in Iraq Appears Non-Hostile, Pentagon Says

U.S. Army Soldiers turn away as two UH-60 Black Hawks fly overhead, Nov. 15, 2017 at Tactical Assembly Area Fuhaymi, Iraq. (U.S. Army/Spc. Avery Howard)
U.S. Army Soldiers turn away as two UH-60 Black Hawks fly overhead, Nov. 15, 2017 at Tactical Assembly Area Fuhaymi, Iraq. (U.S. Army/Spc. Avery Howard)

One U.S. service member was killed and several others injured in the Sunday night crash of what reportedly was a special operations MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter while returning from an anti-ISIS mission along the Iraq-Syria border, the Pentagon said Monday.

"There are no indications the crash was caused by hostile fire," said Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

He said an investigation was underway on the circumstances of the incident.

The name of the deceased service member was withheld until next of kin could be notified.

Several others were injured in the crash and at least three were medically evacuated for further treatment, Manning said. Recovery operations were also underway at the crash site to retrieve the helicopter.

The aircraft had earlier joined "in a partnered counter-terror mission against ISIS in support of Operation Inherent Resolve," Manning said.

He declined to give a location, but U.S. counter-terror teams have been conducting raids along the Iraq-Syria border in and in the Middle Euphrates Valley against remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"This most recent event is a solemn reminder of the inherent danger of our business and the risks that our personnel are put in daily around the world -- from the battlefield to the ships at sea," Manning said.

A statement issued later by U.S. Central Command said that "All personnel were recovered by coalition forces immediately following the incident, and three were evacuated for further treatment."

"We are conducting recovery operations and are in close communication and coordination with our Iraqi partners. There are no indications the crash was caused by hostile fire. The incident is under investigation," CENTCOM said.

Newsweek reported that the aircraft was an MH-60 Black Hawk with 10 U.S. personnel aboard from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the "Night Stalkers" for their ability to operate at night at high speed and at low altitude.

In March, seven U.S. service members were killed in the crash of an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, another modified version of the Black Hawk , near the border town of Qaim in Iraq's western Anbar province.

The crash reportedly occurred shortly after takeoff, when the HH-60 hit power lines in the area. The incident also was ruled by U.S. officials as an accident, and not the result of hostile fire.

For months, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve has been focusing on efforts to achieve a final and lasting defeat of ISIS following the terror group's ouster from major population centers.

However, ISIS has remained active in the desert areas of the Iraq-Syria border region despite continuing pressure from the Iraqi Security forces and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Currently, there are about 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq and about 2,000 in Syria, Manning said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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