2 Marines killed in helicopter crash at Calif base

September 20, 2011 - 2:05 AM
So Cal Fire

Fire officials watch the growing smoke from a brush fire that started on Camp Pendleton when a Marine helicopter crashed Monday Sept. 19, 2011 in De Luz, Calif. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — An investigation was under way into the cause of a helicopter crash that killed two Marines during a training exercise at Southern California's Camp Pendleton.

The crash sparked a brush fire that burned 120 acres, a base statement said. It was 80 percent contained.

The twin-engine, two-seat AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter belonging to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing crashed in the southeast corner of the base Monday near the community of Fallbrook.

The Marines died at the scene. Their names won't be released until their families have been notified, officials said.

The fire grew quickly after the crash, burning 50 acres within three hours after the helicopter went down. It initially was moving near the base's border with the town of De Luz, but was confined to the base late Monday, a base statement said.

Several accidents have happened in recent months involving Marine Corps training in Southern California, including a fatal accident in July.

In August, two Marines were ejected from their F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet as it plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. The two Marines spent four hours in the dark, chilly ocean before they were rescued. Both suffered broken bones and are undergoing rehabilitation at a San Diego hospital.

In July, a decorated Marine from western New York was killed during a training exercise when his UH-1Y helicopter went down in a remote section of Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego.

Another Hornet sustained at least $1 million damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during a training exercise about 100 miles off the San Diego coast. Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured.

The Navy has said debris in the engine is the suspected cause of that fire.