Black Hawk crash kills US service member in Iraq

BAGHDAD – A Black Hawk helicopter crashed at a major American air base in Iraq, killing one U.S. service member and injuring 12 others, the military said Sunday.

The UH-60 Black Hawk went down Saturday night at the Balad Air Base, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

The military said the cause of the crash was under investigation and gave no other details.

The helicopter went down on a night of high winds that tore through the area, whipping up a fierce sandstorm that was followed by thunder, lightning and rain.

The name and other details about the service member killed were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The Black Hawk is the military’s mainstay tactical transport helicopter, replacing the UH-1 Huey. It is designed to carry up to four crew members and a fully equipped infantry squad of 11, but it was not clear how many people were aboard the aircraft that crashed Saturday.

With Saturday’s death, at least 4,345 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

It was not clear what mission the Black Hawk was on when it went down, but the U.S. military relies heavily on helicopters to ferry troops, dignitaries and supplies to avoid the threat of ambushes and roadside bombs.

The Balad Air Base was originally a Saddam-era airfield. It was seized by American forces in the early days of the 2003 invasion and has since grown to be one of the largest in Iraq.