News Guide: 11 servicemen presumed dead in helicopter crash

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Seven Marines and four soldiers were presumed dead Wednesday after an Army Blackhawk helicopter crashed over the water during a night training exercise at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle. Here’s an overview of what happened.

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WHO WAS ON THE HELICOPTER

The Marines are part of a Camp Lejeune, North Carolina-based special operations group and the soldiers are from a Hammond, Louisiana-based National Guard unit, according to Eglin Air Force Base officials. The Louisiana guardsmen are members of the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion. The names of those involved have not been released, pending notification of their next of kin. A military official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak on the record, said they are presumed dead. A military spokeswoman in Florida said human remains had washed ashore.

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WEATHER CONDITIONS HAMPER SEARCH

Dense fog, a misty rain and darkness hampered search efforts for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. The helicopter went down off of Navarre Beach on Santa Rosa Island, which is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico between Pensacola and Destin. The helicopter was on a routine night training mission when contact was lost. It had taken off from an airport in nearby Destin. The helicopter was reported missing about 8:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday.

Much of the western half of the Florida Panhandle was enveloped in fog from Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning, according to Katie Moore, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida. Much of that time, the visibility was two miles or less.

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THE BLACKHAWK HELICOPTER

The Black Hawk helicopter, developed by Sikorsky, has been used by the U.S. Army since 1978. It is known as a versatile, dependable and rugged helicopter. The Black Hawk joined other aircraft Tuesday night for a training mission. The cause of the crash is unclear.

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THE CRASH SITE

Officials say the helicopter went down in a pristine and remote stretch of beach that has been under control of Eglin Air Force Base since before World War II. Only a small stretch of the beach is open to the public. The miles of glistening white sand beaches provide an important training and testing site for all branches of the military — from special forces who practice amphibious landings and invasion tactics to stealth fighter jets testing advanced weapons and guidance systems.

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