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11 Presumed Dead After U.S. Military Helicopter Goes Down off the Florida Coast

11 are presumed dead after a Black Hawk went down during a U.S. military training exercise near Florida. It’s the deadliest DOD training accident in years.

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Seven Marines and four soldiers are presumed dead after their Black Hawk helicopter crashed off a beach in the Florida Panhandle Tuesday night, a strikingly heavy toll for a military transitioning away from the bloody wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The dead troops were taking part in a training exercise out of Eglin Air Force Base when the Louisiana Army National Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawk disappeared in heavy fog. By early Wednesday, debris was being found near Okaloosa Island, not far from Eglin.

It was the deadliest training accident for the U.S. military since 2012, when seven troops died after two helicopters collided during a training exercise along the Arizona-California border, and the second deadly helicopter training accident this year alone. In January, two Marines were killed when their helicopter went down in Southern California. The latest crash is also a grim reminder than American troops are dying even as their combat missions abroad come to an end. No U.S. forces have been killed in Afghanistan or Iraq this year despite the ongoing fight against the Taliban in the former and the growing U.S. troop presence charged with fighting the Islamic State in the latter.

Michelle Stewart, an Eglin Air Force Base spokeswoman, told Foreign Policy human remains had been found but that “the search and rescue efforts continue.” She did not elaborate on the extent of those operations.

The Army said the cause of the accident was under investigation and that officials would provide more details at a press conference scheduled for Hammond at 2 p.m. today.

Speaking in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed the crash and said “our thoughts and prayers are with [the missing troops] and their families as the search and rescue operation continues.”

“Let me begin by adding my personal thoughts and prayers to those of the secretary of defense at the loss of the folks on that helicopter, a reminder to us that those who serve put themselves at risk both in training and in combat,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the same committee. “And we will work with the services to ensure those survivors, or I should say their family members, will be well cared for.”

Photo Credit: Pacific Press

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