The United States Army has suspended aviation unit operations for training after 12 soldiers died in helicopter accidents in Alaska and Kentucky in the last month, the military branch announced on Friday.
The suspension of air operations was effective immediately, with units on the ground until completing training, said Lieutenant Colonel Terence Kelley, an Army spokesman. For active duty units, training will be conducted between May 1 and 5. Army National Guard and Reserve units will have until May 31 to complete training.
"The measure paralyzes all Army aviators, except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training," the Army said in a statement.
On Thursday, two Army helicopters crashed near Healy, Alaska, killing three soldiers and injuring a fourth. The aircraft belonged to the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment of Fort Wainwright, near Fairbanks, and were returning from training at the time of the accident, according to the Army. The unit is part of the 11th Airborne Division, nicknamed the "Arctic Angels."
Military investigators were heading to the interior of Alaska, with a team from Fort Novosel, Alabama, expected to arrive at the accident site on Saturday, according to John Pennell, a spokesman for the US Army in Alaska. No new information on the accident was disclosed on Friday.
The Army reported on Thursday that two soldiers died at the accident site and the third en route to a hospital in Fairbanks. The fourth injured soldier was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition on Friday, according to Pennell. The names of the deceased were not immediately disclosed.
"The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this suspension is an important step to ensure that we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel," Army Chief of Staff James McConville said about the decision to suspend flight units for training.
This is the second accident involving military helicopters in Alaska this year. In February, two soldiers were injured when an Apache helicopter overturned after taking off from Talkeetna. The aircraft was one of four heading to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage from Fort Wainwright.
In March, nine soldiers died when two US Army Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopters crashed during a routine nighttime training exercise about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The Army said that although Thursday's accident and Kentucky's accident remain under investigation, "there is no indication of any pattern between the two incidents."
Healy is home to approximately 1,000 people, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Denali National Park and Reserve, or about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Anchorage.
Located on the Parks Highway, the community is a popular place for people to spend the night while visiting Denali Park, which is home to the highest mountain on the continent.
Healy is also famous for being the town closest to the old bus that had been abandoned in the field and was popularized by the book "Into the Wild" as well as the movie of the same name. The bus was removed and taken to Fairbanks in 2020.
Originally posted at Abogados de Choques