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NASA Expresses Concern And Condolences For Helicopter Crew

Glenn Mahone/Doc Mirelson
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1600)

March 28,2003

RELEASE: 03-124

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe expressed condolences and concern for the crew of the helicopter searching for Space Shuttle Columbia debris, which crashed yesterday in Texas.

"All of us at NASA express our sincere condolences to the families of the helicopter crew members killed in the accident. We deeply empathize with their loss during such a trying time, and have lowered flags at all NASA centers to honor the memory of their loved ones. Our thoughts and concerns go out to the injured crew members, and we pray for their speedy recovery," Administrator O'Keefe said.

Administrator O'Keefe visited the operations area earlier this week and thanked the personnel searching for Columbia debris. "I spoke with Governor Rick Perry, our debris search partners, local and state law enforcement officials, and I feel this accident has widened the NASA family. We at NASA have been so impressed by the devotion, energy and dedication of search crews, and we are deeply sorry for the loss and injury of the people helping us solve the Columbia accident," Administrator O'Keefe said.

The contract Bell 407 helicopter crashed Thursday afternoon, while searching for Columbia debris in the Angelina National Forest in San Augustine County, Texas. Five people were on the helicopter when it crashed. Two were killed and three injured. Flight operations have been temporarily suspended, and the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident. The helicopter was operating under USDA Forest Service contract with Papillon Helicopters of Arizona.

Ground search operations for Columbia debris continue. Search operations in eastern Texas were scheduled to continue for approximately four to six weeks. It is too early to determine if the accident will delay completion of search operations.

For more information about NASA or the Columbia accident investigation on the Internet, visit:

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