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Helicopter crash in Maryland leaves 1 crew member dead, 2 injured

People examine an Army UH-60 helicopter from Fort Belvoir, Va., after it crashed at the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club after Monday, April 17, 2017, in Leonardtown, Md. (Rebecca Updegrave Cline via AP)

People examine an Army UH-60 helicopter from Fort Belvoir, Va., after it crashed at the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club after Monday, April 17, 2017, in Leonardtown, Md. (Rebecca Updegrave Cline via AP)

LEONARDTOWN — One crew member was killed and two others were injured when a U.S. Army Black Hawk military helicopter crashed Monday afternoon on a golf course in St. Mary’s County in southern Maryland, according to military officials.

Authorities with the Army said a UH-60 aircraft with the 12th Aviation Battalion stationed at Davison Army Airfield, Fort Belvoir, Va., was on a routine training flight when it went down at the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club just before 1:40 p.m. Officials described it as a hard landing.

Missy Collier was working from home, still in her pajamas, when her house began to shake as a helicopter flew over her property on Merion Court on the edge of the golf course.

Collier looked out her kitchen window, heard a loud bang as if a car had backfired and saw that the aircraft was on the ground.

Neighbors and golfers quickly ran to the site, Collier among them. She walked through the pine trees of her back yard and there, less than 100 yards from her deck, saw something worse than she had imagined.

“It was bad, very bad,” Collier said. The helicopter looked as if it had taken a nose dive, and cockpit was smashed and crumpled like paper. “I can’t believe it didn’t hit any of our houses.”

The two injured crew members were airlifted to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. One was in critical condition and the other in serious condition late Monday, according to a statement from the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, D.C. The names of the injured and the crew member who died were not immediately released.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the Army Combat Readiness Center based at Fort Rucker in Alabama. They will be on-site Tuesday, the Army said in its statement.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss within our community,” said Maj. Gen. Bradley Becker, commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. “Our condolences go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy.”

By nightfall, emergency crews had put a green tarp over half of the downed helicopter, and Collier recalled the minutes after the crash.

As she and others ran toward the wreck, a second helicopter swirled back toward them and landed, she said. One of the men inside jumped out and ran toward the crash, stripping off his gear, Collier said.

Someone called for water. She ran to her garage to grab two jugs and ran back where she saw a few people trying to aid one injured crew member on the ground.

By then, she said, emergency personnel had arrived, the crowd backed off and emergency workers draped a white sheet over the cockpit.

The member-owned semiprivate golf course and country club is on Society Hill Road along Breton Bay, 61 miles south of the District.

Yellow flags marked spots where debris had fallen. A mass of gnarled, dark-colored metal fell between a few trees yards from the back porches of several houses adjacent to the golf course. Pieces of the rotor were missing, and large cylinders seemed to have rolled away from the aircraft after impact.

Kevin Bowen, the assistant golf pro at Breton Bay, said that the helicopter went down between the third and fourth fairways and that the course had been closed.

Rebecca Cline said she was riding her bike with her 9- and 6-year-olds about 150 yards from the helicopter when it went down. They saw it flying very low, she said, and then it “kind of tipped to one side a little . . . did a nosedive and spun out a little bit,” hitting the ground with a cloud of dust.

“My kids started freaking out,” she said.

Some residents living nearby said they saw something fall off the craft. At first, the debris looked like paper, they said in interviews, but it then became evident to them that it was parts of the aircraft.

Judy Cox had just arrived home when she felt her house shake and saw a helicopter flying lower than usual near her residence on Monterey Place.

“I’m used to seeing the aircraft, and sometimes they do get a little low,” said Cox, whose property is separated from the golf course by a patch of woods and a stream. “But this one was too low.”

She stayed inside and said she didn’t think much of it until she saw the news. Cox said many houses are close to the course, so close that on some days she can hear frustrated golfers from her porch.

This is the second time this month that a military aircraft has gone down in Maryland. On April 6, an F-16 crashed near Joint Base Andrews in a residential area after the pilot parachuted out, with no major injuries reported.

The twin-engine UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, made by Sikorsky Aircraft, has been a workhorse for the Army since it was first fielded in the 1970s. It has been flown in numerous combat environments, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and is used as both a utility aircraft and in aerial assault missions. The cockpit typically holds two aviators, with at least one crew chief in the back. The helicopter can carry at least a dozen more people and supplies.

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement that he is monitoring the incident and added, “My thoughts and prayers are with three crew members on board when the accident took place.”

The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.