US Marines killed in Dolakha may have been trying short-cut to save Nepalese lives

US Embassy in Kathmandu
Photo Courtesy: Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy Vought

The heroism of six US Marines who gave their lives trying to save earthquake casualties in Nepal has become all the more apparent with a III Marine Expeditionary Force’s statement indicating ‘the most likely explanation’ for the tragic crash of their helicopter could have been their decision to take a shorter route to Kathmandu in order to save life of the disaster victims they had just picked up from an alpine village in Dolakha District.

Two soldiers from Nepal Army and five local evacuees also lost their lives in the crash of the UH 1-Y Huey helicopter known as ‘Vengeance 01’ (VE01). The crew were attempting to rescue the victims from a village North of Charikot on May 12. They were deployed under US Army’s Operation Sahayogi Haat, or Operation Helping Hands, in the aftermath of the 7.8 temblor on April 25.

“Based on the investigation, the most likely explanation is that the crew of VE01 decided to take the more direct flight back to Kathmandu due to a real or perceived urgency in the condition of one or more of the embarked casualties,” the US Marine said in the statement.
“The investigation has determined that the most probable cause of the mishap was the decision of crew, after picking up the injured civilians from a village north of Charikot, to fly the most direct route back to Kathmandu,” the statement said referring to the findings of the ‘command investigation’ into the tragic crash.

The short-cut they took ‘required a brief period over unfamiliar terrain with unstable meteorological conditions’. The investigators believe that VE01 was enveloped by rapidly developing clouds or was lifted into a cloud by rising air currents and that they hit the terrain as they tried to ‘maneuver out of the weather conditions’
US Ambassador to Nepal Alaina B. Teplitz in an unrelated photo. Courtesy: Facebook

Promising to ‘celebrate their lives by remembering their courageous and selfless actions in the wake of natural disaster’, the US Marine said the fallen Marines and their Nepalese comrades aboard VE01 showed uncompromising dedication to the humanitarian aid mission in Nepal. “We celebrate their lives by remembering their courageous and selfless actions in the wake of natural disaster,” it added.

On Friday, Marine Security Guards serving at the US Embassy in Kathmandu were joined by their State Department and Marine Corps leadership as they renamed the ‘Heritage Room’ on the embassy grounds as ‘Vengeance Hall’, named after crashed helicopter codenamed Vengeance.
“This room, in the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu’s Marine House, will serve as a sanctuary for their memory. They will forever be remembered and honored, and they will hold a special place in the history of the Marine Corps and of the United States’ partnership with Nepal,” US ambassador to Nepal Alaina B. Teplitz said on the occasion.

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