“I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life and injuries that occurred during the combined air-to-ground training accident in Kuwait today. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of our fellow servicemembers, from the United States as well as New Zealand," said Adm. Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations.
There have been a number of recent high-profile military mishaps in addition to the accidental sinking of the Japanese trawler. There were two fatal crashes of Marine Corps Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, in April and December.
However, the Pentagon says it has observed a decrease in military aviation accidents last year. There were 57 crashes of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft in fiscal year 2000, compared to 73 in 1999. More personnel died, however, in 2000 — 58, as opposed to 44 in 1999.
For all fatalities, including those not involving aircraft, the Navy reports a general trend downward. From 1990 to 1995, the Navy reported 325 people killed in mishaps. From 1996 to 2000, 225 were killed in mishaps.
Some 4,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Kuwait. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have air bases for pilots patrolling the "no-fly zone" over Iraq, and U.S. ground troops are also stationed near the Kuwait-Iraq border.
ABCNEWS correspondent John McWethy contributed to this report.