The helicopter carrying seven people crashed in heavy rain Monday just outside of Kacanik, 30 miles south of Pristina, Kosovo's capital. NATO officials said the chopper went down in mid-afternoon, when visibility was poor.
British forces identified the dead as a Flight Lt. Mark James Maguire, 31, of the Royal Air Force and Capt. Andrew Crous, 28, of the army air corps. Though the crash happened near the border with Macedonia, where ethnic Albanian insurgents have been active recently, there was no indication of any hostile fire, said Maj. Fergus Smith, a spokesman for the British contingent serving in Kosovo.
The five crash survivors were injured and were being treated at the U.S. military hospital at Camp Bondsteel.
"The pilot and navigator were both killed instantly while the five others on board all suffered various degrees of injury. All are now in stable condition," said a written statement from Lt. Gen. Thorstein Skiaker, the new commander of the NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo.
Investigators from Britain were expected to fly to the site later Tuesday. NATO-led peacekeepers secured the area around the crash before their arrival.
The helicopter landed on its side in a wooded area, surrounded by piles of branches it sheared from trees as its propellers fell to the earth. Snow dusted the ground around the site.
The statement from Skiaker said the three crew members and four soldiers were helping secure the Kosovo-Macedonia border, scene of fighting in recent weeks between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian government troops trying to put down the insurgency. British troops have been among those sent to reinforce the Kosovo side of the border in an attempt to help contain the insurgency by reducing the movement of men and arms to and from Macedonia.
"My sincere condolences and sympathies go out to the families and friends of the dead and injured," Skiaker's statement said. "Their loss is a tragedy but perhaps their loved ones can take some comfort from the fact that it was suffered in trying to bring peace to this troubled region."
Kosovo is a province of Serbia, the larger Yugoslav republic. Peacekeepers moved into Kosovo in mid-1999 after NATO bombing forced former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to order an end to a crackdown on Kosovo's Albanians and pull out his forces.
Dozens of helicopters of the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force fly daily missions, which include surveillance and the transportation of personnel and supplies.
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