7 Marines killed in helicopter collision in US

By JULIE WATSON | Associated Press

YUMA, Arizona (AP) — Seven U.S. Marines were killed when two helicopters collided in the California desert during night training exercises, the latest of several Marine Corps training accidents in the region.

"We're still gathering a lot of details as the sun comes up," said Lt.Maureen Dooley with the Miramar Air Base in California.

The crash happened around 8 p.m. Wednesday and involved an AH-1W Cobra that carried two crew members and a UH-1 Huey utility helicopter carrying five service members from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

It will be at least 24 hours before the Marine Corps releases the names of those killed.

The aircraft collided in a remote portion of the Yuma Training Range Complex.

The U.S. military and its allies train in the hot, desert area ringed by mountains because the conditions are similar to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The AH-1W is considered the Marine Corps' main attack helicopter. The UH-1Y is replacing the aging version of the Huey utility helicopter first used during the Vietnam War.

When asked whether the crash was a result of technical or pilot error, Dooley told CNN she couldn't confirm anything because the investigation had just begun and could take months.

Several accidents have happened in the past year involving Marine Corps training in Southern California.

In September, a helicopter went down at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, killing the two Marines on board.

In August, two Marines were ejected from their fighter jet as it plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. They spent four hours in the dark, chilly ocean before they were rescued. Both had broken bones but survived.

In July, a Marine was killed when his helicopter went down in a remote section of Camp Pendleton.

Another fighter jet sustained at least $1 million damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during a training exercise off the San Diego coast. Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured.