Marine killed in helicopter accident was at 'high-risk' training: officials

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 04, 2015 12:45 PM

(Reuters) - A U.S. Marine who died at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina this week was participating in "high-risk" training when a helicopter made a hard landing, killing him and injuring 11 others, the U.S. Marine Corps said on Friday.

Staff Sergeant Jonathan Lewis, 31, was participating in a course on helicopter rope suspension techniques, the Marines said. Assigned to an anti-terrorism security team based in Yorktown, Virginia, he worked in communications as a radio chief.

The course, teaching rappelling and fast ropes - a quicker but more risky way of descending a rope - was in preparation for an eventual deployment, Colonel Jeffrey Kenney, who leads the unit providing the training, told reporters.

"This is high-risk training, but it is invaluable to the Marine Corps," he said, noting that it enables commanders to place Marines in difficult locations, such as urban areas.

Lewis was in a Sikorsky CH-53E helicopter that made a hard landing around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, meaning it touched down with greater force and speed than is considered normal, the Marines said in a statement.

Two of the 11 Marines injured in the accident remained hospitalized in stable condition on Friday morning, officials said. The rest were evaluated and released.

Results of an investigation into what happened may not be known for weeks or months, the Marines said.

The accident follows the March death of four soldiers and seven Marines from a special operations unit from Camp Lejeune, when a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter plunged into waters off the Florida Panhandle during a training exercise.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Bill Rigby)