French investigators confirmed that they had found traces of Andreas Lubitz’s body among the crash debris high in the mountains where the wreckage of the downed Airbus A320 – en route to Dusseldorf from Barcelona – fell.
German newspaper Bild confirmed that French authorities believe they have located Lubitz’s remains.
Families of those killed are understood to have been invited to give DNA samples to expedite the identification of their loved ones.
“For us, it makes it particularly difficult that the only victim from Montabaur is suspected to have caused this tragedy, this crash – although this has not been finally confirmed,” pastor Michael Dietrich said.
“The co-pilot, the family belong to our community, and we stand by this, and we embrace them and will not hide this, and want to support the family in particular.”
Meanwhile an ally of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has called forGermany’s draconian privacy laws to be relaxed to prevent a repeat of the Germanwings tragedy.
Dirk Fischer, CDU transport expert, has proposed an easing of medical confidentiality for those in sensitive jobs.
Under his proposals pilots would “go to doctors that are specified by the employer,” he told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
The doctors would then be obliged to warn employers and the Federal Aviation Authority of any pressing concerns such as serious mental disorders.
Killer co-pilot Andreas Lubitz sought treatment for problems with his vision in the weeks before he deliberately crashed his Germanwings A320 Airbus into the French Alps.
The problems may have meant the end of his flying career, officials disclosed.
He was also treated by several neurologists and psychiatrists for ‘severe overload syndrome’, which can be debilitating. Whether his vision complaints were linked to his psychological difficulties is unknown.
Erratic: Lubitz (pictured) was a master of hiding his darkest thoughts and would wake up from nightmares screaming ‘we’re going down’. He also told his former lover that he was planning a heinous act
Officers reportedly found a variety of drugs used to treat mental illness at his flat in Dusseldorf, appearing to substantiate claims he was severely depressed.
And a former partner described him as a tormented, erratic man who was a master of hiding his darkest thoughts and would wake up from nightmares screaming ‘we’re going down’.
The 26-year-old Germanwings stewardess, known only as Maria W, revealed to a German newspaper how Lubitz ominously told her last year:
‘One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.’
It is not clear how severe Lubitz’ eye problems were, but officials confirmed that evidence found at his home suggested he was being treated for psychological issues. It is understood that he hid his health problems from Germanwings.
Two officials with knowledge of the investigation said the authorities had not ruled out the possibility that the problems with his vision could have been psychosomatic, the New York Times reported.
The revelation came after German investigators revealed that the 27-year-old should have been off sick on the day he deliberately flew his 149 passengers and colleagues to their deaths in the Alps.
Investigators said medical sign-off notes were found at his home – including at least one that covered the day of the crash – and Dusseldorf University Hospital confirmed he had been a patient there over the past two months.
While the hospital would not initially disclose his condition, bosses confirmed that he had been evaluated at the clinic in February and on March 10.
The hospital, which has its own eye clinic, later denied speculation that he sought treatment for depression at the centre but would not confirm he had attended for vision problems, citing privacy laws.
It came as German newspaper Welt am Sonntag said police found evidence at his flat which suggested he was suffering from ‘severe burnout syndrome’ – a serious psychosomatic illness.
A source in the police investigation team told the newspaper that Lubitz was treated by several neurologists and psychiatrists, before adding: ‘This is clear from personal notes stored and collected by the pilot.’
‘Severe burnout syndrome’ is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion and is often linked to those in jobs with high stress levels.
It’s symptoms include alienation and negativity towards their work environment and colleagues and it is also known to cause suicidal tendencies and anger issues.
German state prosecutors and police declined to comment on the media reports, adding there would be no official statements on the case before Monday.
Earlier, Lubitz’s former lover Maria, who claimed to have dated the pilot and keen runner for five months after the pair met while flying across Europe together, said he ‘never really’ spoke of illness but she was aware he was receiving psychiatric treatment.
She said they spent ‘several nights’ in hotels together and described him as a ‘nice and open-minded’ man.
However, she claimed there was a difference between his professional and his private ego, with him being ‘soft’ and needing love when the couple were alone but becoming ‘someone else’ when they talked about work.
She told Bild: ‘We spoke a lot about work and then he became another person. He became agitated about the circumstances in which he had to work, too little money, anxiety about his contract and too much pressure.’
His personal problems and erratic behaviour became so severe that the flight attendant decided to call the relationship off after fearing his increasingly volatile temper.
‘During conversations he’d suddenly throw a tantrum and scream at me,’ she said. ‘I was afraid. He even once locked me in the bathroom for a long time.’
Despite parting from Lubitz, Maria said previous conversations with him suddenly ‘made sense’ when she heard about the crash on Tuesday.
She said: ‘When I heard about the crash, there was just a tape playing in my head of what he said: “One day I will do something that will change the system and everyone will then know my name and remember me”.
‘I did not know what he meant by that at the time, but now it’s clear.’
She added: ‘The torn up sick notes make sense now to me and were a clear sign that he did not want to admit that his big dream of flying as a captain was over.’
The co-pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps deliberately worked to destroy the plane while passengers shrieked in terror and the pilot pounded on the cockpit door, a French prosecutor said at a news conference Thursday in Marseille.
“This was voluntary, this was deliberate,” Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said. “He refused to open the cabin door in order to let the pilot back in. I repeat. He refused to let the pilot back in. He is the one who pressed the button that allowed the plane to begin descending and lose altitude.”
The information was obtained from the cockpit voice recorder of doomed Flight 9525, which suddenly began an eight-minute descent before smashing into a rugged ravine in the French Alps on Tuesday. The data recorder for the flight from Barcelona bound for Düsseldorf, Germany, has not yet been found.
Robin said the co-pilot, identified as German national Andreas Lubitz, 27, was not on a terror watch list. A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY the FBI has been running the flight manifests through its databases but so far has found no connection to terrorism.
Lubitz said nothing during the descent, but could be heard breathing until the crash, Robin said.
“The co-pilot is the only one in the cockpit,’ Robin said. “While he is alone he somehow manipulated the buttons on the flight monitoring system. He was alone at the helm of this Airbus.”
Robin stressed the actions were deliberate. He said passengers could be heard screaming in fear.
“We start hearing banging, someone actually trying to break the door down,” Robin said. “That’s why the alarms were let off — because these were protocols that were put in place in case of any terror attack.”
Robin said the plane apparently glided until it crashed into the ravine, a sound heard on the voice recorder.
“Again, no distress signal, zero, no ‘help me’ or SOS,” he said. “Nothing of this sort was received by air-traffic control.”
Robin said the voice recorder indicated dialogue between the pilot and co-pilot was normal. Robin said informed the families of the developments and that they were in shock.
German, French and Spanish authorities are investigating the crash. The FBI issued a statement saying it was offering to help French officials leading the investigation.
German carrier Lufthansa, which owns the low-cost airline, offered special flights from Barcelona and Düsseldorf to Marseille, so that those close to the victims can be near the scene of the search and recovery efforts in the French Alps.
“We are shaken by the upsetting statements of the French authorities. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and friends of the victims,” Lufthansa tweeted.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said he was left “speechless” by Robin’s horrifying description of events, but said evidence thus far supports them.
“This action on the altitude controls can only be deliberate,” Spohr said. “The most plausible interpretation is that the co-pilot, through a voluntary act, refused to open the cabin door to let the captain in. He pushed the button to trigger the aircraft to lose altitude.
“He operated this button for a reason we don’t know yet, but it appears that the reason was to destroy this plane.”
U.S. cockpit regulations don’t allow a pilot to be left alone in a cockpit. The Air Line Pilots Association issued a statement saying U.S. airline procedures are “designed to ensure that there is never a situation where a pilot is left alone in the cockpit.”
Lufthansa said Lubitz joined Germanwings in September 2013, directly after training, and had flown 630 hours. Spohr said the co-pilot began training in Bremen, Germany, in 2008 and later trained in Arizona.
Spohr said there was a brief interruption in training in 2009 but that he had completed qualifications for the job. German media outlets quoted classmates as saying Lubitz interrupted his training due to “burnout” and “depression.”
Lubitz was included in the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s database of certified pilots.
“He passed all medical tests, he passed all aviation tests, he passed all checks,” Spohr said. “He was 100% able to fly without any limitations, without any reservations. His accomplishments were excellent. Nothing was noticed that wasn’t proper.”
Spohr said there were no indications that the co-pilot was dealing with a terrorist incident in the cockpit.
“We are speechless at Lufthansa and Germanwings,” Spohr said. “We are shocked.”
Officials have not identified the pilot, but multiple media outlets have identified him as Patrick Sonderheimer. He had more than 6,000 hours of flying time and had been Germanwings pilot since May 2014, having previously flown for Lufthansa and Condor. Robin said Sonderheimer’s family is in France and would be interviewed by investigators.
Emerging evidence indicates that the 28 year old copilot who crashed a Germanwings flight this week had converted to Islam, and had stayed at the same mosque which radicalized Mohammed Atta from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Police have reportedly found an “item of significance” at the apartment of Andreas Lubitz, the First Officer who crashed the Germanwing passenger plane into the Alps. The item was NOT a suicide note.
In the six-month break during his training as a pilot at Germanwings, Lubitz reportedly converted to Islam and subsequently decided to carry out the mass murder. It is not known whether he did so by order of extremist Muslims or on his own accord. As the convert stayed often at a radical mosque in Bremen, which is at the center of the investigation, he may have received his instructions directly from members of the immediate Muslim community.
Converts are considered to be a most important weapon of Islam, as their backgrounds do not suggest that they are violent.
Pamela Geller, a prominent American anti-jihadist, captured images and comments from Lubitz’s Facebook page, which has since been taken down.
Another Facebook page has also been set up, entitled “Support for Andrew Lubitz, hero of the Islamic State.”
Undoubtedly, the left will categorize this murderous act as an episode of “workplace violence” or as a result of the actions of a “mentally unstable” individual.
PARIS — As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in.
A senior French military official involved in the investigation described a “very smooth, very cool” conversation between the pilots during the early part of the flight from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany. Then the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could not re-enter.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer.”
He said, “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”
While the audio seemed to give some insight into the circumstances leading to the Germanwings crash on Tuesday morning, it also left many questions unanswered.
“We don’t know yet the reason why one of the guys went out,” said the official, who requested anonymity because the investigation was continuing. “But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”
The data from the voice recorder seems only to deepen the mystery surrounding the crash and provides no indication of the condition or activity of the pilot who remained in the cockpit. The descent from 38,000 feet over about 10 minutes was alarming but still gradual enough to indicate that the twin-engineAirbus A320 had not been damaged catastrophically. At no point during the descent was there any communication from the cockpit to air traffic controllers or any other signal of an emergency.
When the plane plowed into craggy mountains northeast of Nice, it was traveling with enough speed that it was all but pulverized, killing the 144 passengers and crew of six and leaving few clues.
The French aviation authorities have made public very little, officially, about the nature of the information that has been recovered from the audio recording, and it was not clear whether it was complete. France’s Bureau of Investigations and Analyses confirmed only that human voices and other cockpit sounds had been detected and would be subjected to detailed analysis.
Asked about the new evidence revealed in the cockpit recordings, Martine del Bono, a bureau spokeswoman, declined to comment. “Our teams continue to work on analyzing the CVR,” she said, referring to the cockpit voice recorder. “As soon as we have accurate information we intend to hold a press conference.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Marseille, who have been tasked with a separate criminal inquiry into the crash, could not immediately be reached for comment. Brice Robin, the Marseille prosecutor, was due to meet Thursday morning with the families of the crash victims.
At the crash site, a senior official working on the investigation said, workers found the casing of the plane’s other so-called black box, the flight data recorder, but the memory card containing data on the plane’s altitude, speed, location and condition was not inside, apparently having been thrown loose or destroyed by the impact.
The passengers who boarded Germanwings flight 4U 9525 at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on Tuesday morning were the usual midweek mixture of tourists, business travellers and families, each with a busy and in some cases dramatic morning already behind them by the time they settled into their seats.
There were schoolchildren returning home from a Spanish exchange trip who had mislaid their passports and had to rush to catch the flight; parents negotiating the tricky task of travelling with babies, and frequent flyers, including the opera singers Oleg Bryjak and Maria Radner, returning home after a performance at the Gran Teatre del Liceu.
The ground crew responsible for the Airbus A320 were also having a busy morning. The aircraft had landed at 7.57GMT, with 122 passengers on board, and with a scheduled take-off time for Dusseldorf of 8.35GMT, it had to be cleaned, refuelled, restocked and checked over in less than 40 minutes.
It had been grounded in Dusseldorf earlier in the day for an hour because of a problem with the nose wheel door – which Germanwings said had been resolved – then took off more than 25 minutes late from Barcelona for reasons which are not yet clear. By 9.01 the Airbus was back in the air, heading north for what should have been a 90-minute flight.
All was normal for the next 40 minutes. The Airbus, with an experienced crew at the controls, slowly climbed to its cruising altitude of 38,000ft, which it reached at 9.45 in the skies over southern France. But then something went catastrophically wrong.
Less than a minute after reaching 38,000ft, the aircraft went into a steep and terminal descent. The pilots made no request to air traffic control to begin an unscheduled descent, and for the next eight minutes the aircraft plunged back down to earth at a rate of 4,000ft per minute.
Sébastien Giroud, who owns a local sawmill, looked up and saw it. “The plane was flying very low, maybe 1,500 or 2,000 metres,” he said. “It was impressive, it seemed it was going down. I said to myself: ‘It won’t pass the mountains’.”
No Mayday signal was sent during that eight-minute fall to earth, no message was relayed to French air traffic control to say the aircraft was in trouble. The aircraft remained intact, automatically relaying its altitude, airspeed and heading to air traffic control, and at 9.47 air traffic controllers implemented an aircraft distress alert, based on its rapid loss of height. At 9.53, all contact was lost.
It had dived to an altitude of 6,000ft when its last signal was sent, and “the plane then crashed,” to quote the unvarnished words of Germanwings’ Managing Director Thomas Winkelmann.
Without any apparent attempt by the pilot and co-pilot to correct the dive, the aircraft had flown into a mountain in the Alps called Les Trois Eveches, between Digne-les-Bains and Barcelonnette, north-west of Monaco, where it had “disintegrated”, in the words of one local official.
“It was a deafening noise. I thought it was an avalanche, although it sounded slightly different,” said Sandrine Boisse, president of the Pra Loup tourism office. “It was short noise and lasted just a few seconds.”
Pierre Polizzi, the owner of a local campsite, said the aircraft was making unusual noises before it crashed.
“There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that,” he said. “I looked outside but I couldn’t see any fighter planes. The noise I heard was long – like eight seconds – as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise about 30 seconds later.”
In Haltern am See, 50 miles from Dusseldorf, parents waiting for their 15-year-old children to return from the exchange trip began to hear media reports that there had been a plane crash.
Bodo Klimpel, the mayor of the town, said students began searching online for news of the aircraft, “and then when the plane didn’t land and they were unable to make contact with their friends and classmates by cell phone, that’s when they assumed the worst had happened”.
Parents who were not already at the airport expecting to collect their children made their way there or to the school, desperately hoping there might, somehow, be good news.
On the ground in France, however, hope had died almost as soon as the mountainous location of the crash was known.
Two helicopters from the gendarmerie were sent up to fly over the crash site, and all they could see was wreckage. Pieces of fuselage with rows of windows still intact were among the only pieces of aircraft recognisable from the air.
President Francois Hollande quickly took the decision that it would be wrong to give false hope, and announced that he did not expect any survivors among the 150 passengers and crew. “It is a tragedy on our soil,” he said.
His assessment was confirmed hours later when the first helicopter managed to land near the crash site. The crew found only human remains, and lumps of wreckage the size of cars.
By early evening, the first of the Black Box flight recorders had been recovered, holding vital information that will hopefully answer the question of why a well-maintained aircraft suddenly dropped out of the sky in one of the safest air corridors in the world, during the safest part of its journey.
The pilot, as yet unnamed, had 10 years’ experience and 6,000 hours flying Airbuses for Lufthansa and Germanwings. The aircraft, called Mannheim, was 25 years old, with 46,700 flights in its logbook, but had always been owned by Lufthansa and went through routine maintenance on Monday as well as a major overhaul in 2013.
Suspicion has fallen on the computer technology used the fly the A320, and in particular its “angle of attack” sensors that tell it whether it is pointing up, down, or is level.
Last year an Airbus A321 owned by Lufthansa went into a sudden descent at 31,000ft, falling at the same rate – 4,000ft per minute – before the crew managed to regain control.
The European Air Safety Directive said in that incident the aircraft’s angle of attack sensors had become blocked and tricked the computer into thinking the aircraft was about to stall.
The EASA said that in that situation: “The flight control laws order a continuous nose down pitch rate that, in a worst case scenario, cannot be stopped with backward sidestick inputs, even in the full backward position.
“This condition, if not corrected, could result in loss of control of the aeroplane.”
Another possibility was that the crew had been suddenly incapacitated, possibly by a fire or explosion in the cockpit, but terrorism and sabotage has been all but ruled out already.
Dr Stephen Wright, a lecturer in air transport at Leeds University, said: “It just doesn’t make sense – the ground crew would naturally look for somewhere to land, and it is very unusual for the crew not to be able to communicate with the ground.
“Even in the case of rapid decompression, they are trained to deal with that and rehearse these scenarios every six months on a simulator.”
At the crash site, mountain rescue teams on the ground will spend the next days helping helicopter crews to airlift bodies off the slopes, though the process of recovering all the wreckage is likely to take much longer.
In the nearby town of Seyne a gym is being transformed into a temporary morgue, where DNA samples will be taken from bodies to be matched with samples taken from toothbrushes or other personal effects provided by relatives.
Lieutenant-colonel Jean-Paul Bloy said: “It will take several days to recover the victims.
“The crash zone is very steep and rugged mountain. The debris is scattered over an area of about one hectare and it is very difficult to access.
“There are a dozen large areas of debris, the rest is very fragmented. It will be extremely complicated to identify the sites. The victims will be evacuated first and then the debris.”
Several Germanwings flights cancelled after crew refused to fly
Pilots and cabin crew refused to fly over concerns the Germanwings flight 4U 9525 crash may have been linked to a repair to the nose-wheel landing doors
Several Germanwings flights were cancelled on Tuesday after their crews refused to fly, as it emerged that the aircraft which crashed in the French Alps had been grounded for an hour for repairs the day before the accident.
Pilots and cabin crew refused to fly over concerns the crash may have been linked to a repair to the nose-wheel landing doors on Monday, according to an unconfirmed report in Spiegel magazine.
Tributes outside the Joseph Koenig school in Haltern (Rex)
Lufthansa denied that there was any link between the repair and the cancelled flights.
Crews were refusing to fly for “personal reasons”, a spokesman for the airline group said.
The airline confirmed that the aircraft which crashed into the Alps had been grounded for an hour on Monday for repairs to the nose-wheel landing doors, but insisted the issue was not “safety-related”.
“The repair was purely to fix a noise that the door was making, and the aircraft was flying again from 10am on Monday,” the spokesman said.
It completed several flights safely after the repair before the accident, she added.
Lufthansa admitted that several Germanwings flights had to be cancelled after crews refused to fly, but said it was because they were in “deep distress” over the accident.
Wreckage from the plane was strewn across the crash site (AFP)
A report in the online version of the widely respected Spiegel claimed that the crews’ reluctance to fly was linked to concerns that the repair may have contributed to the flight.
Further disruption is expected today after Germanwings flights from Dusseldorf to several destinations were cancelled.
French President says likely no survivors after plane crashes in Alps with 148 on board
DEVELOPING: No survivors are expected among the 148 people aboard a passenger plane that went down in the French Alps Tuesday morning, said the French president, who called the crash “a tragedy that has occurred on our land.”
The Airbus 320, operated by German carrier Lufthansa’s budget airline, Germanwings, was flying in clear weather from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when pilots issued a distress call as it dropped from a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to around 6,800 feet over the town of Barcelonnette in the Alpes de Haute Provence region, about 65 miles north of Nice. The descent was described as unusually rapid, but possibly controlled though it left the plane too low to navigate the mountains.
Wreckage was spotted shortly afterward in a remote area of the mountains at around 6,500 feet, France’s Interior Ministry told The Associated Press. Eric Ciotti, the head of the regional council, said search-and-rescue teams were headed to the crash site.
“This is a mourning period that we need to overcome because it’s a tragedy that has occurred on our land,” said French President Francois Hollande.
“This is a mourning period that we need to overcome because it’s a tragedy that has occurred on our land.”- French President Francois Hollande.
Hollande was scheduled to talk to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish leaders as most of the crew and 142 passengers were likely from those countries.
“It happened in a region that is fairly difficult to access, I don’t know if there are any homes involved,” Hollande said. “We will know it in the coming hours. While we wait, it is solidarity that we should feel in the first place.”
Former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall told Fox News a crash in midflight was extremely rare and said “criminal activity” cannot be ruled out.
The plane was built in 1991 and had always been in Lufthansa’s fleet. AFP reported that the plane had issued a distress call at 10:47 a.m. local time. Eric Heraud, a spokesman for France’s civil aviation authority, told The New York Times that the pilots declared an emergency during a rapid descent. That could point to engine failure, an electrical problem or onboard fire, Kenneth Honig, former commanding officer of New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, told Fox News.
“They had something going on that was causing them to lose altitude quickly,” Honig said.
The first order of business, Honig said, will be to secure the plane’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, also known as the “black box.” Honig said the recordings will aid in the crash investigation because they will capture the dialogue between the pilot and co-pilot and what they were saying to one another as they tried to work through the problem.
“We do not yet know what has happened to flight 4U 9525,” Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told Sky News. “My deepest sympathy goes to the families and friends of our passengers and crew on 4U 9525. If our fears are confirmed, this is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors.”
The company planned a news conference at 10 a.m. ET.
Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney told Fox News he was puzzled that the plane did not divert its course away from the mountains after losing altitude.
“If it disappeared [from radar], it means it got into the mountains,” McInerney said. “There’s probably quite a bit of [cockpit] dialogue that we’re not getting yet.”
Search continues in military copter crash off Florida that left 11 presumed dead
By By Colleen Jenkins and Letitia Stein
(Reuters) – Seven Marines and four soldiers were presumed dead after an Army Black Hawk helicopter crashed on a nighttime training mission off Florida’s Gulf coast, where U.S. military officials continued a search-and-rescue operation on Wednesday afternoon.
Some human remains had washed ashore, said a spokeswoman for Eglin Air Force Base in north Florida.
Officials did not immediately release information on what caused the crash involving the Marines and four members of the Louisiana National Guard. Heavy fog was reported around the time the helicopter was reported missing around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Fog hampered the search effort on Wednesday.
A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 11 service members aboard were presumed to have died in what could be among the deadliest domestic military training accidents in years.
One of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters participating in the routine exercise crashed near the base 50 miles (80 km) east of Pensacola, and rescue workers discovered debris about 2 a.m. on Wednesday, the base said in a statement.
The other helicopter “started to take off and then realized, I guess, that the weather was a condition and turned around,” Major General Glenn Curtis of the Louisiana National Guard told reporters.
The second helicopter landed safely, the military said. Names of the missing troops were being withheld.
The Marines were part of a special operations unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina conducting amphibious “helicopter and boat insertion and extraction training” focused on getting troops in and out of specific areas, according to a Marine Corps statement.
“Our complete attention is on locating our fellow Marines,” the statement said.
The four crew members and the helicopter were part of the Louisiana National Guard, assigned to an Army unit based in Hammond, Louisiana. All four were married men with children, Curtis said.
They were part of a highly experienced helicopter battalion, Curtis said, noting the two pilots were instructors and had “several thousand hours” of flying experience with their crew.
President Barack Obama phoned military officials to express condolences, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, noting the president anticipated a detailed investigation.
The helicopter that crashed had a flight data recorder that will be part of the investigation, a Louisiana guard official said.
The incident occurred near an Air Force base spanning nearly 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) in the Florida Panhandle that is used extensively for training.
General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military officer, told a U.S. Senate hearing that the “loss of the folks on that helicopter” served as “a reminder to us that those who serve put themselves at risk both in training and in combat.”
In February 2012, seven Marines were killed when two helicopters collided during a nighttime training exercise along the California-Arizona border.
The following year, another seven Marines died in an explosion at a Nevada munitions depot after a mortar round detonated prematurely during a live-fire training exercise.
(Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales, Phil Stewart, Curtis Skinner, Jonathan Kaminsky and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney and Will Dunham)