Two helicopters flew in the nighttime training mission that cost the lives of seven Marines and four soldiers, but one turned back in the dense fog, military officials said Wednesday.
The other exploded into pieces as it crashed in a narrow Florida waterway, and all 11 on board were presumed killed.
Military officials haven’t said what caused the crash of the UH-60 Black Hawk, but the weather was bad enough for the other helicopter crew to return to land, said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.
The helicopter that crashed had a veteran crew from Hammond, Louisiana, that served multiple tours in Iraq and helped humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and the BP oil spill.
They were carrying unconventional warriors from the Marines Special Operations Command. Like the Army’s Green Berets and the Navy’s SEALs, they were highly trained to endure grueling conditions and sensitive assignments on land and at sea, from seizing ships to special reconnaissance missions and direct action inside hostile territory.
President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to the families and said he’s confident of a detailed and thorough investigation, said his spokesman, Josh Earnest.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families as the search and rescue continues,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Capitol Hill.