Army Probing Copter Crash; Border-Patrolling Fleet Halted

January 4th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Army Probing Copter Crash; Border-Patrolling Fleet Halted

San Diego Union-Tribune
January 4, 2007
By Tanya Sierra, Staff Writer
NATIONAL CITY – Six helicopters used in the Operation Jumpstart border-patrol project will remain grounded for at least one week while officials investigate Tuesday's California National Guard helicopter crash near Otay Mountain.
A stand down is routine during such probes, but this one could last longer depending on the findings of a team of Army investigators arriving from Alabama today, National Guard spokesman Capt. Michael Morgan said during a news conference in National City.
Four National Guard crew members and five U.S. Border Patrol agents were injured when their UH-1 Huey transport went down east of Lower Otay Reservoir at 3:45 p.m. The helicopter landed on its belly, its main rotor broken and its tail snapped off.
“The wreckage looks pretty bad,” Col. Kevin Ellsworth said.
Five victims remained hospitalized and were expected to be released soon, Ellsworth said.
No clues were given as to what caused the crash. Ellsworth said the pilot was highly experienced, with more than 1,000 flying hours on record. He added that the 30-year-old aircraft was maintained properly.
“Nothing leads us to believe that there is a problem with the helicopter type,” Ellsworth said.
Power lines in the area were reported down about 10 minutes after the Huey crashed, according to outage information on San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s Web site.
Power for 17 customers in six communities from East County to Otay Mesa will be out while the military conducts its on-the-scene investigations, said Ed Van Herick, a spokesman for SDG&E.
“We're telling them to get fuel for their generators,” Van Herick said. “We're talking to each one of them individually.”
The flight was an Operation Jumpstart mission, which is part of President Bush's May 2006 initiative to use 6,000 National Guard troops to reinforce security and reduce illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Border Patrol authorities would not give details on Operation Jumpstart's flight missions, but said they will ultimately continue.
“We've conducted over 300 missions in three months,” border agent Mike Fischer said. “The (illegal immigration) threat is real.”

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