Five American service members lost their lives in a helicopter crash on Friday night, following a “mishap” during a training exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, as announced by the military on Sunday.
The casualties were identified as Army special operations soldiers, as reported by The New York Times and Washington Post, confirmed by two officials. Search and rescue efforts were conducted until Saturday when they were eventually halted, according to the same officials.
The helicopter involved in the crash was identified as an MH-60, according to the officials.
An initial statement from U.S. European Command on Saturday stated that the cause of the crash was under investigation, with no indications of hostile activity. The incident occurred during a “routine air refueling mission,” as stated in European Command’s Sunday statement, without providing further details about what went wrong.
The crash took place near Cyprus, according to a third U.S. official, and the crew was part of special operations forces deployed to the region in case of a need to evacuate American citizens amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
The names of the deceased have not been disclosed, pending notification of their relatives.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his condolences, emphasizing the sacrifices made by the men and women defending the nation. He highlighted the dedication of these individuals and pledged to honor their service and sacrifice.
There was initially a discrepancy in the timing of the incident between European Command officials and Austin’s statement, but the Pentagon clarified on Sunday that it occurred late Friday.
President Joe Biden publicly mourned the loss, acknowledging the bravery and selflessness of military members. He emphasized the sacred obligation to those who serve the nation, especially during Veterans Day weekend, offering prayers for the families and friends affected by the tragedy.