THE SALINA JOURNAL HELICOPTER CRASH SUNDAY, APRIL 8. 2001 A3 T VIETNAM MIA search crew goes down At least 16, including seven Americans, die in helicopter crash By DAVID THURBER 77ie Associated Press HANOI, Vietnam — A helicopter carrying a team searching for Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War crashed into a mountain Saturday, killing at least 16 people, including seven Americans. There were conflicting reports about the ntmiber of casualties. Vietnamese officials said there were 20 people on board and that all of them died in the crash. But a Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Lt. Cmdr Terry Sutherland, said 16 were killed, including seven Americans and nine Vietnamese. The sky was somewhat hazy when the helicopter crashed mid-afternoon near Thanh Tranh village in Quang Binh province's Bo Tranh district, officials said. The area is about 280 miles south of Hanoi. The U.S. military's Pacific Command said in a statement on its Web site that the team was in a Russian-made MI-17 helicopter on a mission "preparing for a recovery operation involving unaccounted for Americans lost during the Vietnam war." • BUSH REACTION SOURCE: ESRI A spokesman for the command in Honolulu, Lt. Sean Kelly, said the service members killed were all on a mission for Joint Task Force Full Accounting, a Hawaii-based operation that investigates Americans missing from the Vietnam War. The task force has searched for remains in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Kelly said no other information could be released until next of kin have been notified. He declined to say whether any were attached to the Central Identification Lab, also based in Hawaii, which works to identify remains from all wars in which Americans were involved. Villagers saw the helicopter making unusual swinging-like movements in the air before it crashed into the side of a mountain, a local official said. Officials were investigating the cause of the crash. Authorities found 19 badly burned bodies, police said. A man who was alive when they reached the site told them the plane was carrying an MIA search team, officials said. He later died. The Pacific Command said "appropriate actions" were being taken to recover the victims' remains. President Bush extended "his condolences and prayers" to the families of those killed. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in Washington. There are currently no large- scale MIA excavations under way in Vietnam, but some Americans remain in the country year-round doing advance work for future digs. Since 1973, the remains of 591 American servicemen formerly listed as unaccounted for have been identified and returned to their families. There are 1,992 Americans still unaccounted for from the war in Southeast Asia, including 1,498 in Vietnam. The United States spends $5 million to $6 million annually on MIA recovery operations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. TOTAL REmRDS President responds to loss of lives By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — President Bush expressed sorrow Saturday over the helicopter crash in Vietnam that killed 16 members of a U.S.-Vietnamese team searching for the remains of Americans missing in action in the Vietnam War Bush confirmed that the helicopter carried 16 people, including seven Americans. "The families of the service personnel lost in today's tragic accident know better than most the contribution their loved ones made in bringing closure to scores of families across America," the president said in a statement issued at the White House. "Today's loss is a terrible one for our nation," Bush said. "Although not lost in a hostile act, like those for whom they search, they too have lived lives of great consequence, answering a calling of service to their fellow citizens." "May we remember their sacrifice and keep them, and their families, in our thoughts and prayers," the president said. The National Alliance of Families, a group working for the return of servicemen missing in the Vietnam conflict, also issued condolences. "Please find comfort in thej, fact' that your loved ones will always be remembered for their commitment to finding our loved ones," a statement issued by the alliance said. Play "Stamp It Rich" for your chance to win big cash! Pick up a new stampbook every Tuesday at the Total Rewards" Center. Then, collect one stamp per hour and be ready to win big! So get in on the action with "Stamp It Rich" April 3 dirough May 29. Get Stamps^ WinCaslii Harrati Oh Yeah! ' PRAIRIE BAND CASINO Owned by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. Must be 21 years of age or older. 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