Helicopter crashes on border duty; 9 hurt - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/3/07-SAN DIEGO, California

Helicopter crashes on border duty; 9 hurt

A California National Guard helicopter lies broken on a hillside southeast of San Diego on Tuesday. A California National Guard helicopter lies broken on a hillside southeast of San Diego on Tuesday.

 A California National Guard helicopter ferrying Border Patrol agents crashed in a rural area near the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday, injuring all nine people aboard, authorities said.

Five Border Patrol agents and four members of the Guard were aboard the UH-1 helicopter, said Col. Dave Baldwin, director of planning and operations for the California National Guard.

Five people with neck and back injuries were airlifted to hospitals, said Jan Caldwell, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Injuries were described as moderate to major, said Sheriff's Lt. Dave Myers.

The helicopter, one of the older models used by the Guard, was on a routine mission, Baldwin said, taking agents either to or from a remote site along the border.

It went down in the Otay Mountain area about 20 miles southeast of downtown San Diego and a few miles north of the border. The aircraft came to rest on its belly, with its top rotor snapped off and its tail thrust to its side.

A National Guard accident investigation team was en route.

Authorities wouldn't speculate on the cause. Capt. Brennan Blue of the California Department of Forestry, which provided medical response, said that power lines were down near the crash site but that it was unclear whether they went down before or after the crash.

The National Weather Service said skies were clear and winds were light, although a wind advisory was called for the mountains at midday Tuesday.

California National Guard Capt. Mike Morgan said the UH-1 was on a mission for Operation Jumpstart, taking the border agents to mountainous areas inaccessible by vehicle.

The operation stems from a plan announced last year by President Bush to deploy as many as 6,000 National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border for about two years to help local and federal law enforcers stop illegal immigration.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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