Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1D tail number 65-09955
The Army purchased this helicopter 0666
Total flight hours at this point: 00001484
Incident number: 671129011ACD Accident case number: 671129011 Total loss or fatality Accident
Unit: 161 AHC
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was LOSS TO INVENTORY
This was a Recon mission for Unarmed Recon
While Enroute this helicopter was Unknown at 0500 feet and UNK knots.
Helicopter took 1 hits from:
Small Arms/Automatic Weapons; Gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (7.62MM)
Systems damaged were: PERSONNEL
Casualties = YES . . Number killed in accident = 4 . . Injured = 0 . . Passengers = 0
The helicopter Crashed. Aircraft Destroyed.
Both mission and flight capability were terminated.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Army Aviation Safety Center database. Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: OPERA, UH1P2, 74171 (Operations Report. )
Loss to Inventory
CE CPL FREEMAN STEVEN FORREST KIA
G CPL TIFFANY CLARENCE JAMES KIA
P WO1 LATINI GERALD LEOPOLD KIA
P WO1 STEELE DANIEL SCOTT KIA
While on a firefly mission reconning the beach, the aircraft went down 400 meters off shore. The cause was unknown.
At the time our unit was located on the beach at Chu Lai adjacent to the Chu Lai airstrip. We had been under a series of mortar and rockets attacks at Chu Lai and had designated a team of UH-1B gun ships supported by a UH-1D flare ship to be on standby with the ability to quickly launch, search for and destroy enemy launch sites. The night Jerry died I was the fire team leader of the gun-ships, my wing man was Steve Lotspeich (VHPA member). Jerry Latini was the aircraft commander of the flare ship, his copilot was a "Newby" (Daniel Scott Steele KIA 11/29/67). During the night the airstrip again came under attack and on two separate occasion we launched but were unable to locate the enemy position. During the third attack of the night we again launched. The flare ship took off first and began a easterly climb over the South China Sea. Steve and I took off to the South and immediately swung around to the West and headed directly towards the hills lying to the west of Chu Lai from which the attacks were normally launched. The weather was lousy, 500 feet ceiling or less, light rain and almost no visibility, (typical I corps monsoon weather). As we proceeded West Steve and I attempted to contact the flare ship with negative results. we assumed that Latini had experienced radio problems and we proceeded on. After arriving on station with still no contact with either the enemy or the flare ship and worsening weather conditions we radioed operations and informed them that we aborting and returned to base. Operations still had not established contact with the flare ship and had contacted the C. O. and reported the aircraft missing. There was a lot of confusion and activity that night with three subsequent mortar attacks. Our maintenance hanger had been destroyed, an enlisted hootch destroyed and I believe there were two enlisted men killed. Early the next morning the operations officer informed us that the incoming rounds had been from a friendly (Some Friends!) artillery unit that had been firing Harassment and Interdiction fire, two rounds each hour. The unit had laid their 105 howitzers 3200 mils (180 degrees) out, and had fired in the opposite direction intended. The operations officer also informed us that Latini's aircraft had crashed into the South China Sea and that all crew members were lost. A few days later at the request of the operations officer I was flying a low level recon of the beach searching for bodies when I noticed a body floating in the surf close to the beach. I landed my gun ship on the beach and the crew chief and I waded into the water and pulled the badly decomposed and bloated body to the beach by his shoulder strap. We knew it was Jerry from his shoulder holster which had his name on it. Armored Personnel Carriers from the 11 Armored Cavalry Regiment relieved us and guarded the position until the body could be recovered. I don't remember if any of the other bodies were ever recovered, but I'll never forget Jerry Latini. from Garland Lively, 26 November 1992 I do know they were on flare standby and, like many nights, we started receiving incoming rounds. (This is the night we were receiving H & I fire every 40-45 minutes from friendly arty.) I was operations officer so my ops clerk had already alerted them by the time I arrived and they were arriving for the mission when I got there. Mr. Steele was still fairly new and I could see the mixture of excitement and concern in his eyes as he walked by me. It was kind of old hat for Mr. Latini. From that point the following is what I personally observed from the steps of the ops shack. This I know: I watched them take off to the north, turn out over the water and head south along the beach. They leveled off at about 800' and seemed to be doing okay. The next thing I noticed was they had entered what appeared to be a rapid autorotation. I don't remember any light from the interior...there could have been one but not visible, (now that it has been mentioned I do recall someone had been working on a light project) but they did have on the external searchlight. The descent appeared normal and I watched them all the way down waiting for them to flare. The flare never occurred. Because of the trees on the sand dunes I lost sight of them at about...my guess...50-75' still descending rapidly. I remember saying... flare, flare, flare! They were at about our southern boundary at that point because they had not been flying more than a minute or so. It was just a few seconds later I heard a loud "THHUUMMP" like a huge barrel would make if it hit the water side-down at a high speed. I know some of our people responded to the scene. I didn't go right away because I was needed at ops but Maj. Schenker and I were there at first light the next day. I can discuss that visit at a later time. I will say now that Maj. Schenker, one of the good guys, was thinking only of the crew. I don't ever recall that they entered clouds and somehow came out of them upside down. Perhaps that was a way to explain why it appeared there was no attempt at a flare. I have always had my theory on that. There is no fact here, just theory but maybe other flying personnel can see why I've felt this way. Anyway, as I said, I watched the whole thing and they did not flare. I remember that the sea, for some reason that night, was as smooth as a tabletop...not a ripple...and that is of course very unusual. I also recall that the water there was very, very clear when the sea was like that. You could see down through it quite a distance. So picture the fact that for some reason you have to enter autorotation and you do that. We all know the training said to start your flare at approx. 75' or so...forgive me IP's if I don't have it exact, it's been a long time. So, as the pilot, you have on the search light, somebody is using it to look at the spot you have picked for touch down. The problem is that the spot is out over the water, the clear water, and since the sea is tabletop smooth, the light looks down through it to the bottom as if the water was not even there. Imagine that the water at that point is 75-100 feet deep. It's possible that seeing down through the water, making you feel as if you had another 100 feet or so before you needed to flare, would cause you to delay your pitch pull to the point you actually strike the water in full descent rate. Anyway, why else would either of the pilots in the aircraft not flare for the autorotation. You had to hear the big thump to know they hit at full force. Of course, the impact probably rendered them all unconscious and probably initiated the breakup of the aircraft. The water action over the next hours then completed the breakup of the Huey and we found them on the beach the next day. That's the full extent of what I actually know and what I believe may have been the cause of the fatalities. Actually, there is one more thing I know and that is I honestly believe we can discount the "in the clouds and disoriented" theory. They were coming down in perfect autorotation attitude. Donald E. Long, Pelican Ops Officer at the time. submitted July 2003.
This record was last updated on 07/18/2003
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Date posted on this site: 05/16/2021
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