U.S. Commander In Nepal Confirms Helicopter Crash Found

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- U.S. Defense officials confirmed Friday that they have found the wreckage of the helicopter carrying six U.S. Marines and two Nepali service members, but the U.S. Commander on the ground said they were not yet able to positively identify any of the bodies found at the scene.

"It is unlikely there are any survivors at this time," said U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commanding general on the ground in Nepal, and said he was unable to confirm the report from the Nepalese government, that three bodies had been discovered.

Wissler said that due to the harsh conditions of the region, he was calling off the search for the evening. Wissler said the deaths would not affect the U.S. Marine mission to the Nepalese region to assist with aid following a series of deadly earthquakes.

Nepalese rescuers claimed they found three bodies Friday near the wreckage of a U.S. Marine helicopter that disappeared earlier this week while on a relief mission in the earthquake-hit Himalayan nation, and officials said it was unlikely there were any survivors from the crash.

"The wreckage of the helicopter was found in pieces and there are no chances of any survivors," Nepal's Defense Secretary Iswori Poudyal said. He gave no details about the nationalities of the three victims, only saying their remains were charred.

The helicopter was carrying six Marines and two Nepalese army soldiers.

The U.S. Marines said in a statement Friday a team they sent to the site confirmed it was the missing helicopter, a UH-1 "Huey."

"The assessment of the site is ongoing and a thorough investigation will be conducted," the statement said.

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal had no immediate comment Friday.

The suspected wreckage was found about 8 miles from the town of Charikot, near where the aircraft had gone missing Tuesday while delivering humanitarian aid to villages hit by two deadly earthquakes, according to the U.S. military joint task force in Okinawa, Japan.

The area is near Gothali village in the district of Dolakha, about 50 miles northeast of Nepal's capital Kathmandu.

The discovery of the wreckage, first spotted by a Nepalese army helicopter Friday, followed days of intense search involving U.S. and Nepalese aircraft and even U.S. satellites.

The U.S. relief mission was deployed soon after a magnitude-7.8 quake hit April 25, killing more than 8,200 people. It was followed by another magnitude-7.3 quake on Tuesday that killed 117 people and injured 2,800.

The second quake was centered between Kathmandu and Mount Everest, and hit hardest in deeply rural parts of the Himalayan foothills, hammering many villages reached only by hiking trails and causing road-blocking landslides.

The helicopter had been delivering rice and tarps in Charikot, the area worst hit by Tuesday's quake. It had dropped off supplies in one location and was en route to a second site when contact was lost.

U.S. military officials said earlier this week that an Indian helicopter in the air nearby had heard radio chatter from the aircraft about a possible fuel problem.

The helicopter that crashed was from Marine Light Attack Helicopter squadron 469 based at Camp Pendleton, California.