Condolences Offered to Families of 31 Crash Victims
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2005 The tragic helicopter crash in western Iraq today claimed the lives of 30 Marines and one sailor, confirmed Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, in a statement from Iraq.
"While we mourn the loss of these heroes we will honor their sacrifice by continuing our mission to bring democracy to the people of Iraq," Sattler said in offering condolences to the families of those killed when their CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopter crashed near Ruthbah in the Anbar province.
"To the families of these brave men, our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to you in this most difficult time," he said.
The general said the helicopter, from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, was transporting personnel from the 1st Marine Division when it went down. Those killed were on a mission conducting security and stability operations.
"All Marines, sailors and airmen of the 1st Expeditionary Force mourn the tragic loss of our brothers in arms," Sattler said.
The servicemembers were on "a routine mission in support of the elections," said Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, today when he and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met briefly with reporters after testifying to the House Armed Services Committee on Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I think it's a dangerous environment that we operate in Iraq; we all understand that," Abizaid said. "And again, our condolences to the families."
Sattler said a recovery team is at the site and that the cause of the crash is currently under investigation. Abizaid noted that the weather in western Iraq was bad.
"We don't know of any enemy action," he said. "The investigation continues. There will have to be more that comes out of this to learn what happened."
Names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of family.