Four Army aviators were killed when two helicopters crashed in the aviation training area southwest of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, said base spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield.
The circumstances of the crash are still unclear, but Dangerfield said it was sometime after 8 p.m. and involved two OH-58 Kiowa choppers and occurred about two miles south of Spurgeon Creek Road Southeast and Rainier Road Southeast.
The names of the soldiers involved were not immediately released. Initial reports said two soldiers also were injured, but that wasn’t the case. Base spokesman J.C. Mathews said each helicopter seated two.
Police and Army officials are blocking access to the crash area.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the deceased,” Dangerfield said. “We will conduct a thorough investigation. We will do everything in our power to support the families of the brave soldiers who died this evening.”
The Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. — where Lewis-McChord spokesman Joe Piek said all Army helicopter pilots are trained — will lead the overall investigation into the accident.
The helicopter involved is known as a Kiowa Warrior, said Piek, and is primarily used for armed reconnaissance and security. The Warrior is a single-engine, four-blade chopper known for its highly accurate navigation system and its portability; two of them can be transported by a C-130.
In late October, Fort Rucker temporarily grounded its own Kiowa Warrior fleet. The grounding was not the result of an accident, but part of a proactive review of “specific system concerns,” according to an Army press release.
Dangerfield didn’t say what the helicopters were doing when they crashed Monday night. “Pilots, as you know, do a lot of night training,” he said.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one of 12 joint bases in the world, supports more than 100,000 military and civilian personnel, contract employees and retirees.
Three Fort Lewis soldiers died five years ago this month when a Black Hawk utility helicopter crashed during a night time training session near Enumclaw.