6 Kaneohe-based Marines killed Afghanistan helicopter crash

Published: Jan. 20, 2012 at 9:07 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2012 at 11:30 PM HST
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HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Defense officials have confirmed that six Hawaii-based Marines died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Thursday.

According to officials, the six Kaneohe-based Marines were part of the Lucky Red Lions helicopter squadron HMH-363.

The unit deployed late last August to southern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and are set to return home in March. The unit's mission is to provide assault support, transport Marines and critical supplies, as well as equipment during expeditionary operations.

U.S. officials say the International Security Assistance Force is investigating the crash, which occurred in the Helmand province.

A U.S. official has reportedly said there was no indication that the CH-53D Sea Stallion was hit by enemy fire.

The heavy-lift choppers are operated exclusively by Squadron 363 based at Kaneohe Bay.

The loss of the six Marines comes on the heels of the death of one of its pilots last March when another CH-53D Sea Stallion chopper crashed during a training mission at the Kaneohe sandbar.

Hawaii News Now has learned that family members are being notified of the deaths. Friends, family and fellow Marines at Marine Corpse Base Hawaii are mourning the loss from this tragedy.

This is the greatest loss to the Marine Corps this year in Afghanistan, and perhaps to the Kaneohe unit thus far.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye issued the following statement:

"Words are not sufficient to express my sorrow for the loss of these brave Marines.  These men should never be forgotten.  Their contributions to our nation and to our world's security are beyond measurement.  Having witnessed the death and injury of my brothers in arms, I can well understand what this loss means to their comrades and families.  My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time," said Senator Inouye.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka issued the following statement:

"This is a tragic day for our island community.  I am saddened for the loss of these Marines and the loved ones they leave behind.  My thoughts and prayers are with their families.  We know our servicemembers in Afghanistan place themselves in constant danger, and we can never forget their courage and sacrifice and the need for our continued support."

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa released the following statement:

"I am saddened to hear of the loss of six Hawaii Marines in Afghanistan. All who have called Hawaii home are part of our island ohana, and every loss like this touches us deeply. It is a reminder of what we ask of those few proud souls who answer our nation's call. Those we lost displayed great courage and honor in serving our country, and have made the ultimate sacrifice for their commitment. My thoughts are with their families and loved ones, and with all of the brave men and women who are facing the dangers of war today."

We'll have more details on this story as they become available.

Be sure to log on to HawaiiNewsNow.com and tune in to Hawaii News Now Sunrise for the latest developments.

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