Searchers in Nepal have found the wreckage of a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that crashed during an earthquake relief flight, and officials said it is apparent that all aboard were killed.
Neither the cause of the crash nor the identities of the eight people aboard the craft have been disclosed. Lieutenant-General John Wissler confirmed Friday that the helicopter was carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers. The general, a senior commander of Marines based in Japan, noted the enormous loss of life Nepal has suffered during the past three weeks, from the strongest earthquake in the Himalayas in more than 80 years and many aftershocks, including another strong and damaging earthquake this week.
The Defense Ministry in Kathmandu announced the helicopter went down three days ago in a mountainous area of east-central Nepal and said it was not possible for anyone onboard to have survived. The American Marine commandant said the site was "in extremely dense forest and exceptionally rugged terrain."
Nepal's Defense Secretary Iswari Prasad Poudel said three charred bodies were recovered initially, and that searches were continuing.
"While we mourn the tragic passing of our service members and [those] of the Nepalese army, we recognize that the Nepalese people have suffered a loss of thousands of their own citizens," General Wissler said.
He pledged that U.S. teams now working on relief efforts in Nepal "will continue to stand with Nepal as long as our friends need our help."
In Washington Friday, President Barack Obama mourned the loss of the American helicopter crew, described by their commander as "selfless individuals dedicated to the international humanitarian aid mission."
"Our prayers remain with the families of our Marines and two Nepalese soldiers," Mr. Obama said. "...They went to that remote land to help people who suffered devastating losses in a terrible earthquake. They represented truth that guides our work around the world. When our friends are in need, America helps."
The president spoke outside the U.S. Capitol to an annual gathering of police officers from around the country, many of whom have served as "first responders" at disaster scenes.
"Sometimes those in uniform get attention only when there's a battle," Obama said, "but they do so much more than that looking out for folks who are vulnerable or having a tough time ... [after] a disaster. And it can involve great risk and great sacrifice. And we give thanks to all our fellow Americans military and civilian, who reflect the very best of American leadership around the world. The world's better for them."
U.S. officials they are assessing the details of the crash of the UH-1Y Huey helicopter, which was part of an American task force in Nepal dubbed Operation Sahayogi Haat (Helping Hand).
The joint effort by the military and the U.S. Agency for International Development has already delivered nearly 50 tons of relief supplies, transported 273 personnel and conducted more than 68 hours of flight time throughout Nepal's earthquake-ravaged areas.