A helicopter crashed in Korea during an annual joint military drill between United States Forces Korea and the South Korean army Tuesday. The chopper, a CH-53E Super Stallion, made a "hard landing" near the North Korean border, but fortunately, none of the 21 service members aboard were killed.
The helicopter crash occurred at a South Korean shooting range in Cherwon, near Jipo-ri Range, according to the country's Yonhap news station. The flight operation seemed to be happening as normal, but officials have not yet determined the cause of the accident.
"Safety is a priority for all aircraft operations. The CH-53E has an excellent operational safety record. A comprehensive investigation will take place to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident," U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement. "Safety is our number one priority when operating our aircraft, to include both the safety of our aircrew, passengers and the communities where we train and operate."
After the military helicopter crashed, the 21 passengers aboard- 16 American soldiers of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and five flight crew members- were transported to a local hospital to check for injuries. 15 of the passengers were released, and the other six were hospitalized but in stable condition, according to Fox News.
The U.S. has 28,500 service members in South Korea, according to Reuters, and the "Foal Eagle" joint military drill along with South Korean troops ranks as one of the largest military maneuvers in the world. Despite the fearsome display, however, North Korea continued to threaten South Korea with "sledge-hammer blows."
"The military demonstration of [North Korea's] revolutionary armed forces will be powerful sledge-hammer blows at all hostile forces hurting the dignitary of the supreme leadership," DPRK military officials told the state-run KCNA news station.
The statement from military officials came in response to anti-North Korea protests in Seoul, South Korea Monday, where constituents burned a portrait of Kim Jong-il. The DPRK demanded an apology for the "monstrous criminal act" and said "retaliatory action" would start without notice if their demands were not met.