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Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:20 am Post subject: National Guard helicopter crashes near San Diego
SAN DIEGO - A group of Border Patrol agents and members of the California National Guard escaped serious injury Tuesday when a helicopter carrying them crashed near the U.S.-Mexico border during a mission to curb human smuggling.
Five Border Patrol agents and four Guard members were aboard the UH-1 helicopter when it went down about 3:40 p.m. in the Otay Mountain area about 20 miles southeast of downtown San Diego and a few miles north of the international border.
"To have a bird go down like this with nine people on board and not have anyone in intensive care is a huge relief," said James Jacques, a Border Patrol spokesman for the San Diego sector.
The aircraft came to rest on its belly, its top rotor snapped off and what appeared to be its tail thrust to its side. All nine people aboard were taken to hospitals, but none of their injuries were considered life-threatening.
The helicopter, one of the older models used by the Guard, left Naval Air Station North Island shortly after 3 p.m. and picked up the Border Patrol Agents at Brown Field, just north of the border, Master Sgt. Michael Drake said.
The UH-1 was on a mission for Operation Jumpstart, transporting Border Patrol agents to mountainous areas inaccessible by vehicle - routes often used by human smugglers.
The crash was the first since operations began in California in July, National Guard Capt. Mike Morgan said. At least 100 such missions have been conducted and are "relatively safe" with weather usually being the major concern, Morgan said.
The National Weather Service said skies were clear and winds were light, between 6-7 mph, although a wind advisory was called for the area's mountains mid-Tuesday.
Authorities declined to discuss a possible cause of the crash. Capt. Brennan Blue of the California Department of Forestry, which provided medical response, said there were power lines down near the crash site, "but it's undetermined whether they went down before the crash or after."
Guard officials declined to comment on the pilot's training and expertise in flying such missions. Details of the helicopter's maintenance record were not released. The Guard said the helicopter was one of two used during such missions.
Operation Jumpstart stems from a plan announced in May 2006 by President Bush to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border for about two years to help local and federal law enforcement to stop illegal immigration.
About 1,400 Guard members are patrolling the California-Mexico border. _________________ Serving the Civil Helo Industry - www.heliopsmag.com
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