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Helicopter collision kills 7 Marines in Calif. desert

Photo by Kristen Lowe

Photo by Kristen Lowe

San Diego - Seven Marines were killed in a collision of two helicopters in the California desert during night training exercises, the latest of several Marine Corps accidents in the region.

The service members with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing were based at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego, Lt. Maureen Dooley with Miramar Air Base in California said Thursday.

The crash around 8 p.m. Wednesday involved an AH-1W "Cobra" that carries two crew members and a UH-1 "Huey" utility helicopter carrying the other five.

The aircraft collided in a remote portion of the Yuma Training Range Complex on the California side of the Chocolate Mountains very close to the Arizona border, Dooley said. The exact location hasn't been confirmed.

"We're still gathering a lot of details as the sun comes up," she said.

It will be at least 24 hours before the Marine Corps releases the names of those killed, Dooley said.

The desert area is favored by the U.S. military and its allies for training because the hot, dusty conditions and craggy mountains replicate Afghanistan's harsh environment and the clear weather allows for constant flying.