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US Army Grounds Apache Helicopters in S. Korea - 2002-08-24

The U.S. military in South Korea has grounded its Apache helicopters after one crashed into a fog-covered hillside, killing both pilots

The U.S. Army says the helicopter was found Friday afternoon on a hillside, south of Chuncheon, the site of a U.S. military base. It is located 80 kilometers northeast of Seoul.

Both pilots, 1st Lieutenant Dustin Shannon of Michigan and Chief Warrant Officer James Wallenburg from Florida, were found dead. No civilians on the ground were injured.

The army declared the helicopter missing early Thursday after it disappeared during a nighttime training mission.

Lieutenant Colonel Steven Boylan, an army spokesman, confirms that the military has temporarily grounded its fleet of about 70 Apaches in South Korea while it investigates. Another Apache crashed early this month in South Korea, but both pilots were uninjured. "We do not know what happened or what caused the aircraft to crash, but we are providing the best training and safety parameters," he said. "Not only for our air crew, but for the entire population that we potentially fly over. We felt it was best to take this precautionary step and temporarily ground the Apaches so that we have time to evaluate the situation."

The bodies of the two pilots will be flown to U.S. military facilities in Japan and then transferred to the United States. A memorial service has been scheduled for Monday.

Lieutenant General Daniel Zanini, commander of the 8th Army, says the accident is a reminder of the challenges presented when training in bad weather over difficult terrain.

U.S. troops have remained in South Korean since the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armed truce and no peace treaty. About 37,000 troops are now stationed across the country.