WASHINGTON - Coalition forces followed established "aircraft down" procedures when reacting to the crash of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Jan. 20 in Diyala province in which 12 U.S. servicemembers died, military officials in Baghdad reported today.
In a statement issued by Multinational Corps Iraq, officials said that contrary to some media reporting, at no time did the lead aircraft leave the downed Black Hawk before additional security arrived at the site.
The military statement said two coalition aircraft were flying on a routine mission when one of the aircraft crashed in a rural area northeast of Baghdad. Reports indicate a distress call from the trail aircraft. About 20 seconds later, the lead aircraft crew saw the trail aircraft go down.
The lead aircraft immediately circled back to provide security and assistance to the crew and passengers, the statement said. After determining the area was clear, the lead helicopter landed and quickly surveyed the scene for any survivors of the downed aircraft.
The crew observed that the aircraft was on fire and determined there were no survivors, officials said. They remained on the ground and secured the site until additional security arrived.
An aerial coalition quick-reaction force arrived on the scene to provide additional security about three minutes after the Black Hawk was reported down. This air support arrived quickly, officials explained, because the crews were already conducting patrols in the area. The lead aircraft involved in the initial incident stayed on the scene for an additional seven minutes before leaving the secured site to fly to Forward Operating Base Balad.
The lead aircraft crew, made up of soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, "performed heroically in protecting and safeguarding their comrades" in the downed Black Hawk under extremely adverse conditions, the Multinational Corps Iraq statement said.
The incident remains under investigation.
(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)