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Helicopter crash in Pohang kills five soldiers

July 18,2018
Five soldiers were killed when a Marine Corps helicopter crashed at a Navy base in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Pohang fire department, the crash occurred at 4:46 p.m. on the runway of the Korean Navy’s Sixth Air Wing base. A spokesman for the Marine Corps First Division said that six soldiers were aboard the MUH-1 amphibious helicopter for a test flight. The cause of the crash was not known as of press time. The helicopter was hovering 10 meters (33 feet) above the ground before it crashed on the runway and immediately caught on fire.

Of the six passengers, five are confirmed dead and one is severely injured and unconscious. The wounded passenger was transported by the Marine Corps to Ulsan University Hospital for treatment. The oldest person killed in the crash was the 45-year-old pilot, and the youngest was 20 years old. The fire was put out by 5 p.m., but one firefighter was injured, according to the fire department.

Authorities from the Marine Corps and Navy are currently investigating the cause of the crash. Two MUH-1 helicopters built by Korean Aerospace Industries were acquired by the Marine Corps in January after decades of lobbying.

Since 1987, when the Marine Corps separated from the Navy, it had to lease helicopters from the Army or Navy when it wanted to conduct amphibious operations and training. In 2016, the Marine Corps created a 3,000-man amphibious rapid deployment brigade, but it could not operate independently due to the lack of helicopters.

The MUH-1 helicopters, often referred to as Marine One, have a top speed of 265 kilometers (164 miles) per hour and can carry up to nine passengers. The Marine Corps has plans to acquire up to 28 helicopters by 2023.

This is not the first helicopter accident to occur in the Pohang area. According to Navy authorities at the Sixth Air Wing base, four people were injured when a Navy helicopter crashed while landing in an amphibious training exercise in April 2017. In September 2016, three died after a Navy helicopter crashed in the ocean during a joint U.S.-South Korean naval drill.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]