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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Navy helicopter crashes off Colombia


Colombia joins search for U.S. Navy helicopter

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- A U.S. Navy helicopter crashed in the Pacific Ocean off Colombia with three aboard Tuesday, and the Colombian navy joined a search for the missing crew members, U.S. and Colombian officials said.

The SH-60B Seahawk helicopter was within sight of the frigate USS DeWert when it went down in the eastern Pacific, said Bill Austin, a spokesman for the U.S. Naval Station at Mayport, Florida, where the troops were based.

"The helicopter didn't transmit any kind of distress call that we know of," Austin said, adding that the helicopter was conducting normal operations at the time of the crash.

He said he did not know how far the helicopter was from the ship when it went down, or whether it had just taken off or was returning.

The Colombian navy sent a marine patrol plane to join in the U.S. Navy's search, said Colombian Adm. Jairo Pena, commander of Colombia's Pacific fleet.

"We received the report that it fell to the water inexplicably," Pena said, adding that the accident occurred about 5 a.m., but that by Tuesday afternoon, the search still had been fruitless.

He said the DeWert is part of a unit that usually carries out anti-drug missions in international waters. "We are searching in a zone about 350 miles from the Colombian coast," off the port of Buenaventura, Pena said.

Colombia is the world's largest cocaine producer and a major supplier of heroin to the United States.


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