U. S. , Kuwait ask why bombing went terribly wrong WASHINGTON — A team of Kuwaiti and U. S. investigators sorted through evidence on Tuesday trying to learn how and why a U. S.
Navy jet dropped a 500-pound bomb near observers at a training range, killing six of them. The F/A-18 Hornet was taking part in a twice-yearly training flight on Monday when the accident happened. The training flights have been a regularly scheduled part of the Persian Gulf area military experience for 10 years — since a multinational force repelled an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and pledged to keep the tiny oil-rich nation safe in the aftermath. But on Monday, something went wrong. A Navy pilot practicing ‘close air support’ for ground troops suddenly dropped live ordnance near an observation area, according to the U. S.
Central Command. The blast killed five Americans and a New Zealander, 27-year-old acting Maj. John McNutt. The names of the five Americans killed have not been released. Five other Americans and two Kuwaitis were injured. Two of the injured have already been released, and some of the injured Americans were evacuated to a U.
S. airbase in Germany. Central Command appointed an investigation board to arrive later this week in Kuwait, where U. S.
and Kuwaiti officials were already trying to learn whether the error that led to the accident came about in the air — the pilot’s mistake — or somewhere on the ground, either from faulty direction for air traffic controllers or a tragic miscommunication that put the observers in the line of fire. ‘We will work hard to take care of the families involved, and to find out how such an accident could occur,’ U. S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a statement. ‘It shouldn’t happen ” Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark pressed for answers into the death of her country’s soldier.
‘We don’t, in the normal course of events, expect to have people come home in body bags,’ she said. ‘It’s a terrible tragedy and… we are now looking for an urgent, detailed explanation as to how such a training exercise can go so terribly wrong,’ said New Zealand Defense Minister Mark Burton. ‘This was alive bomb basically dropped on observers. It shouldn’t happen and we all need to know precisely what went wrong.’ Kuwaiti defense chief of staff Lt. Gen.
Ali al-Mua man apologized for the incident, pledged a thorough investigation, and said that the accident would not stop further joint military exercises in the region. U. S. President George W. Bush, speaking in Florida, also offered condolences and led a moment of silence before a speech promoting his tax cut.
Second Navy accident in a month The incident happened about 7: 30 p. m. (11: 30 a. m. EST) when the sophisticated single-seat Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Harry.
Truman dropped the bomb during the joint training exercise with Britain and Kuwait. U. S. and Kuwaiti forces routinely fly joint training missions at the Udairitraining ground, about 31 miles (50 km) south of the Iraqi border. Two of the U. S.
dead were Army personnel and two were members of the Air Force, but no information has yet been released on the fifth U. S. observer killed. The Hornet is the U. S. Navy’s primary ground attack plane and also serves as a fighter.
The supersonic jet first flew in 1978 and has been in service since 1983. Aircraft from the Truman and bases in Kuwait were used to strike at Iraqi air defense targets near the Iraqi capital Baghdad last month. It is the second accident involving the U. S. Navy in little more than a month. The submarine USS Greeneville struck a Japanese fisheries training vessel on February 9 while surfacing off Hawaii, leaving nine dead, including fourteen-a gers.
A military court of inquiry is investigating that accident. CNN Correspondents Sa tinder B indra and David Ensor contributed to this report.