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These two articles from CNN and Stars and Stripes typify many that hit the headlines worldwide after the crash of a U.S. Army helicopter in Afghanistan.  Four of the 16 aboard wer men of the 1st Battalion, 508th PIR


16 killed in Afghanistan copter crash

Thursday, April 7, 2005 Posted: 12:17 AM EDT (0417 GMT)

(CNN) -- Sixteen people were killed when a coalition helicopter traveling in "severe weather" crashed in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.

Eighteen people, including crew and passengers, were listed on the flight manifest. Two people remain unaccounted for.

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed near Ghazni, roughly 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Kabul on Wednesday.

"The chopper was one of two Chinooks returning to Bagram Air Field from a routine mission in southern Afghanistan. The second helicopter arrived safely at Bagram Air Field," the military said in a news release.

The military said recovery operations have ended for the night because of darkness and weather conditions.

The names of the dead were being withheld pending notification of relatives.

The crash was the deadliest for the military in Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began, The Associated Press reported.

In March 2002, seven Americans were killed when two U.S. helicopters came under heavy fire during the largest allied offensive of the war.

In March 2003, six Air Force rescue team members were killed in a helicopter accident while on the way to help two injured Afghan children. In November 2003, five U.S. troops died in a helicopter crash.

Abdul Rahman Sarjang, the chief of police in Ghazni, told the AP that the crash occurred in the flat desert near a brick factory about five kilometers (three miles) outside the city. The helicopter caught fire, he said.

"We collected nine bodies," Sarjang told the AP by mobile telephone. "They were all wearing American uniforms and they were all dead."

Skies were cloudy with strong winds at the time, Sarjang told the AP.
 


Vicenza families anxiously await news from Afghanistan helicopter crash

Army hasn't released IDs, but says next-of-kin have been notified

By Russ Rizzo, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Monday, April 11, 2005

VICENZA, Italy — It has been an emotionally exhausting few days for families of soldiers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza.

Their sons and husbands deployed just weeks ago for Afghanistan and already have suffered a tragedy larger than any in the base’s recent history.

Four of the 18 people who died in a helicopter crash on Wednesday near Ghazni are believed to be Vicenza-based soldiers. They are officially listed as missing until positive identifications are made in the United States.

The death toll grew over the weekend after military officials found remains of two more military personnel at the site where the CH-47 Chinook went down. As of late Sunday, the Department of Defense had not released the names and units of any of the victims.

Army officials told the Vicenza community on Friday — through family support groups and the bases family support center — that next-of-kin had been notified. No news was good news, group leaders told wives.

But the delay meant tense moments for families on Wednesday night and all day Thursday. They only knew there had been a crash. Most soldiers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade had been out of contact with their families since the crash.

“That’s what breaks our hearts, not knowing,” said Rita Bonamego, who heads Vicenza’s family support center.

Concerned wives came to Bonamego Thursday seeking information that would allay their fears of the worst. Until Friday, Bonamego had nothing to tell them other than what she learned on the news, she said.

An Internet message board devoted to the 173rd Airborne Brigade was flooded with notes asking for information. Wives were worried. Mothers were sleepless.

Families asked anyone with information about which units were affected to write.

“Tom if you read this please call. Love, mom,” a woman wrote.

A woman calling herself “Red Devil Mom” reported that she had not slept all night Wednesday night.

“I should be used to this by now, but it doesn't work like that,” the woman wrote. “Prayer and Tylenol PM do help.”

Later on Thursday, message board readers got their first shock. Parents of a soldier based in Vicenza wrote that their son was one of the four missing. Notes of support came pouring in.

Still, others feared the unknown.

“We are desperate for news,” a mother wrote on Thursday. “Not knowing is harder than finding something out.”

On Friday morning the Internet site’s Webmaster wrote that all next of kin had been notified and that soldiers were under a “news blackout” and unable to call or use e-mail.

That message offered some relief to Maria Letrien, whose fiancé is a platoon leader in the 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment (Airborne).

But since Letrien is not listed as a next-of-kin and had not been in touch with her fiancé’s parents, she still worried.

“While I am trusting God that he is okay, being reassured would help my nerves!” Letrien wrote Saturday under the pen name “Red Devil supporter B-Co.” The regiment’s nickname is the Red Devils.

On Sunday, family members wrote excited messages saying they had heard from their sons and husbands.

Letrien, who did not want to release her fiancé’s name, still waited.

Even when she gets assurance that her fiancé is OK, new concerns await Letrien, she said.

She knows that many days he takes two helicopter rides to get between camps.

“For me, it makes the year seem like it’s going to be a long year,” Letrien said.

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