KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - U.S. military investigators have concluded that the Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 30 U.S. troops in August was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade that hit the rear rotor, causing the aircraft to fall vertically to the ground and burst into flames.
The Aug. 6 crash was deadliest single incident for U.S. forces in the decade-long war and the Taliban claimed responsibility. No one survived the crash in Tangi Valley of Wardak province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul.
"A previously undetected group of suspected Taliban fighters fired two or three RPGs in rapid succession from the tower of a two-story mud brick building approximately 220 meters south" of the aircraft, said the official investigation report, issued Wednesday by the U.S. Central Command. "The first RPG missed the helicopter, but the second RPG struck one of the blades on the aft (rear) rotor assembly and exploded."
The report said after the rotor was hit, the helicopter spun violently and then crashed in a dry creek bed where it was engulfed in flames. The fire triggered several explosions of fuel and munitions.
Among those killed were 17 members of the elite Navy SEALs, five Naval Special Operations personnel who support the SEALs, three Air Force Special Tactics Airmen, an Army helicopter crew of five, seven Afghan commandos, and an Afghan interpreter. A military dog also died.
While final autopsy reports were still being reviewed, it's believed all 38 persons on board died rapidly after the crash.
The troops killed were flying into the area to aid a U.S. Army Ranger platoon, which had been flown in earlier to try to kill or capture a Taliban leader.
Investigators found no wrongdoing by those involved in the mission. The decision to transport all 38 who were killed in one helicopter was "tactically sound" to mitigate the risks of ground fire, the report said.