COLUMBIA, SC — No South Carolina National Guard soldiers were involved in Tuesdays helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan that killed six U.S. service members, a Guard spokeswoman said.
The deputy governor of southern Zabul province told the Associated Press a NATO helicopter crashed in the remote district of Shajau and U.S. officials later confirmed that Zabul was the location of the U.S. soldiers crash.
One person on board the aircraft was injured and survived, sources told the AP.
A statement issued by the NATO international military coalition said the crash was under investigation and that there was no insurgent activity in the area. In Washington, an official originally said the helicopter had experienced engine failure before the crash, but later said that it was unclear whether that was the case.
During the war, five S.C. Guard members were killed in Iraq; 11 have died in Afghanistan. In all, 64 members of the U.S. military with S.C. ties have died in Iraq; 47 have died in Afghanistan
This year, 109 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, out of a total of 139 members of the coalition. By comparison, 394 foreign troops died last year in Afghanistan, including 297 Americans.
More than 150 South Carolina National Guard Soldiers returned from Afghanistan on Monday in a ceremony held at Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
Another 150 S.C. National Guard members are expected to return from the country to the Palmetto State over the holidays. That leaves about 400 S.C. National Guard soldiers and airmen in Afghanistan, but all should be home by the end of 2014 the deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal from the region.
About 17,000 S.C. National Guard soldiers and airmen have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Guard has about 12,000 members so some have gone on more than one overseas tour since the terrorist attacks.