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Six Killed in Kuwait Training Accident

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2001 – Six people were killed and at least five were injured March 12 when a Navy jet accidentally dropped "explosive ordnance" on a group watching a training exercise in Kuwait, military officials said.

Five of those killed were U.S. service members. U.S. Central Command officials at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., released no further information as to their identity or service. The sixth observer killed was a member of the New Zealand armed forces.

Three U.S. service members remain hospitalized with "non- life-threatening injuries." One was transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and two remain in a military hospital in Kuwait, Army Lt. Col. Rick Thomas, a CENTCOM spokesman, said.

The accident occurred at 8 p.m. Kuwaiti time (11 a.m. Eastern time) during a joint Kuwaiti-U.S. air exercise near the Al Udairi firing range, about 30 miles south of Iraq.

CENTCOM officials have not confirmed press reports that the weapon in question was a 500-pound bomb. They do confirm the weapon was dropped by a U.S. Navy FA-18 Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, now on a six-month tour in the Gulf.

DoD officials have not released any information as to the cause of the accident. Thomas said members of an accident investigation board, led by CENTCOM officials, will arrive in Kuwait "this week."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a March 12 statement that DoD officials will "work hard to take care of the families involved, and to find out how such an accident could occur."

After hearing of the accident while visiting the Florida Panhandle, President George W. Bush extended his sympathies to the families involved. "I'm reminded today of how dangerous service can be," he said, speaking to a March 12 meeting of the Panama City Area Joint Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. Bush then asked for a moment of silence.

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