PENSACOLA, FL - The Associated Press reports the seven Marines and four soldiers initially reported missing after their training helicopter crashed are now presumed dead.
The helicopter crashed during a night training exercise at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.
Base officials say the Marines are part of a Camp Lejeune-based special operations group and the soldiers are from a Hammond, Louisiana-based National Guard unit.
The area where the crash happened Tuesday night was under a fog advisory. The area was still extremely foggy Wednesday morning, Eglin public affairs specialist Sara Vidoni said. Reports say the fog also hampered the search effort.
Eglin spokesman Andy Bourland says the helicopter was reported missing around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and search and rescue crews found debris from the crash around 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Names of those involved were being withheld pending notification of next of kin, he said.
Bourland said the Army helicopter took off from a nearby airport in Destin and joined other aircraft in a training exercise.
The The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went down during a routine training mission on a remote swath of beach between Pensacola and Destin. The beach is owned by the military and is used for test missions.
The training area includes 20 miles of pristine beachfront that has been under the control of the military since before World War II. Military police keep a close watch on the area and have been known to run off private vendors who rent jet skis or paddle boards without permission.
Test range manager Glenn Barndollar told The Associated Press in August that the beach provides an ideal training area for special operations units from all branches of the military to practice over the water, on the beach and in the bay.
The military sometimes drops trainees over the water using boats or helicopters and the trainees must make their way onshore.
Our news partners at WTSP explain a little more about the location of the crash and conditions at the time of the crash.
Kevin Robinson, a reporter with our Gannett partners the Pensacola News Journal is there & tweeting from the scene.
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