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Report: Pilot Error Caused Helicopter Crash That Killed California Airman (Video)

 Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark A. Smith
U.S. Air Force
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark A. Smith

The Pave Hawk helicopter crash in Okinawa, Japan that killed Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark A. Smith was caused by pilot error — according to an investigative report released Tuesday by the Air Force.

Smith, 30, of Bakersfield, was aboard the HH-60G Pave Hawk that went down in the Central Training Area near Camp Hansen in Okinawa.

Stars and Stripes reports the Air Force accident review board found a mistake by the pilot caused the crash:

[T]he pilot maneuvered at low altitude to avoid what he mistakenly perceived as a potential mid-air collision with another helicopter...

[H]e misjudged the distance, took over the flight controls and plunged the HH-60 down into the dense jungle.

The aircraft was destroyed, costing the Air Force $38 million, the Kadena public affairs office confirmed.
Three of the aircraft's four crew members ejected safely from the aircraft after the crash.

Smith, the flight engineer, was considered missing until his body was discovered at the crash site on Aug. 6.

Smith was assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron at Kadena Air Base. He is survived by his wife, Jessica, and two daughters.

Bakersfield television station KERO covered the story the day Smith's body was recovered: