8:02 PM CDT, May 18, 2012
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (KTLA) -- A Marine Corps investigation blames a bird strike for causing a deadly helicopter crash at Camp Pendleton last year.
The Marines say an AH-1W Cobra Attack helicopter collided with a red-tailed hawk while in flight on Sept. 19, 2011.
The hawk had a wing span of about 4 feet and probably weighed about 3 pounds, according to the report on the crash.
Both pilots onboard, Capt. Jeffrey Bland, 37, and 1st Lt. Thomas Heitmann, 27, were killed.
The helicopter fell in three pieces to the ground.
The burning wreckage sparked a brush fire that burned more than 120 acres.
The Corps says that the helicopter "was not recoverable" after the bird strike, and the crash was "unavoidable."
The report recommends studying a redesign of the helicopter in order to make it less vulnerable to bird strikes.