Helicopter Crashes in Mt. Hood Rescue

May 30, 2002 -- A military helicopter crashed trying to rescue climbers trapped on Oregon's Mount Hood today.

At least three people had already died and four others were critically injured after they fell into a crevasse on the mountain near Timberline Lodge, Ore., earlier today, police said.

The helicopter could be seen wobbling before rotors apparently clipped the edge of the mountain as it attempted to maneuver for a rescue above 10,000 feet shortly before 2 p.m. PT.

The Pave Hawk helicopter, a highly modified version of the Army Black Hawk, plummeted into the snow on the side of a ridge where it rolled over and over until it came to a stop at the bottom.

Four National Guardsmen were on board, as well as another rescuer. At least one airman was critically injured, officials said.

One seriously injured passenger was a paratrooper who was preparing to be lowered to the snow when the chopper banked into the ground. The man was thrown from the aircraft, which rolled over him as it tumbled down the mountain, said Alan Alderman of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department

Rescuers on the ground pulled the others from the helicopter.

Nine Fall into Crevasse

The rescue attempt was set off after nine climbers fell into the 25-foot-deep crevasse about 800 feet from the summit of the 11,240-foot peak shortly after 9 a.m.

A paramedic with the group used a cell phone to call for help. Rescue teams soon set out for the scene on foot, on snowmobiles and in helicopters, but three climbers apparently died in the fall, or soon thereafter.

"We do have three deceased people up there," Angela Blanchard, Clackamas County sheriff's spokeswoman, told ABCNEWS affiliate KATU.

Blanchard said two of the critically injured climbers had been air-lifted off of Mt. Hood before the accident. Two remained behind, as well as two less seriously injured members of the expedition.

Officials said the weather conditions were calm when the Pave Hawk went down, but operating at such altitude can always be dangerous because of the thinner air.

The helicopter was part of the 939th Air Force Reserve Rescue Wing, and was in training for assignment in the war on terror overseas, Pentagon officials said. Pave Hawks are most often used in combat rescue missions.

The three climbers who died have been identified as Kita Owens, a student from Lebanon, Ore., and two male Oregon State University students from Germany whose names have not yet been released.

ABCNEWS affiliate KATU contributed to this report.

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