YUMA, AZ (RNN) – Seven U.S. Marines were killed Wednesday night when two helicopters collided midair over the dessert in a training exercise near Yuma, AZ. The identities of the Marines - who were preparing for deployment to Afghanistan - have not been released.
The incident happened about 8 p.m. 3 kilometers west of the Yuma Training Range Complex, which spans air space in California and Arizona, according to Maj. Carl Redding, Director of Public Affairs for Miramar. KOLD-TV in Tucson, AZ, and MSNBC have said there were no survivors.
A military official confirmed the accident happened over California air space, "west of the Chocolate Mountains," although the exact location has not been released. The incident is under investigation.
Six of the Marines were reportedly from the 3rd Marine Airwing based out of Miramar Air Base in Southern California and one marine was based out of Yuma, according to the 3rd Marine Arwing's official Twitter account.
NBC reports that five Marines were in one helicopter and two were in the other. Cpl. Steven Posy with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar told the AP that the weather "was pretty mild last night."
Lt. Maureen Dooley with Miramar Air Base told the Associated Press that it will be 24 hours before next of kin are notified and the names of the deceased are made public.
The Yuma Training Range Complex hosts about 70 aviation units and is home to about 4,000 active duty Marines and sailors. It occupies 1.2 miles in Arizona and California.
This is the latest in a series of deadly helicopter crashes in the past decade. Five Marines have been killed in helicopter training exercises since 2002.
In February of that year, two Marines died in a helicopter crash also in the Chocolate Mountains. In July of last year, a Marine was killed in a Camp Pendleton, CA, training exercise when his Huey crashed. Two Marines were killed two months later in training at the same base.
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