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Bird Strike Caused Fatal Pendleton Helicopter Crash (Video)

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

A Marine investigation into the fatal crash of a AH-1W Cobra helicopter in September found it was caused by a collision with a bird, according to documents obtained by the U-T San Diego.

The bird was believed to be a Red-Tailed Hawk, according to the U-T:

The hawk, which probably weighed about 3 pounds and had a wingspan of about 4 feet, hit the top of the helicopter and damaged the pitch change link. Within one second of impact with the bird, vibrations in the main rotor caused the rotor and top of the transmission to separate from the aircraft, the report states.

The report also make clear the collision was unavoidable.


Capt. Jeffrey Bland, 37, and 1st Lt. Thomas Heitmann, 27, were both killed when their helicopter crashed in a training area of the Camp Pendleton. Both were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303.

Bland left behind a wife, Heather, and daughter Aliana.

Capt. Bland's nephew Josh Bland spoke with TV station WQAD-TV shortly after the crash to talk about his beloved uncle. You can watch that interview here: