A UH-60A+ Black Hawk helicopter crashed in the Sinai desert in Egypt, resulting in 8 fatalities (6 Americans, a French national, and a Czech citizen).
The helicopter belonged to 1st United States Air Support Battalion (USASB) Det.1 Aviation Company (Det.1/AvCo) based at Sharm El Sheikh. According to MFO one occupant survived the crash.
Egyptian officials said that the helicopter, part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) had been conducting an aerial reconnaissance flight in the area at the time. In addition to the six Americans on the helicopter, there was one French national and one Czech national.
The full statement from MFO at the time of writing is as follows:
During a routine mission in the vicinity of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, nine members of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) were involved in a helicopter crash. We are deeply saddened to report that eight uniformed MFO members were killed; six U.S. citizens, one French, and one Czech. One U.S. MFO Member survived and was medically evacuated. Names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The MFO will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident. At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident.
We greatly appreciate the cooperation and support of Egypt and Israel in the recovery effort.
According to its website, the MFO has 1,154 military personnel from the United States and 12 other countries covering an area of more than 10,000 square kilometers (3,860 square miles) in the Sinai. It is not linked to the United Nations (UN).
The US-led Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) was originally deployed to the desert peninsula in the early 1980s to monitor Egypt’s 1979 peace deal with Israel.
Its responsibilities include monitoring troops levels along Egypt’s border with Israel and ensuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran. Although unpopular among many Egyptians, the mission has led to billions in US defense aid, making foreign troops on its sovereign territory somewhat more palatable.
In a statement of condolence Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi described the MFO as “extremely important … to maintaining security and stability.”
The Sinai, known for its tourist sites, has also been the scene of increased activity by terrorists associated with the so-called Islamic State (IS). In February, North Sinai was the focus of operations against militants and official figures suggest more than 930 suspected terrorists and dozens of security personnel have been killed in the area since. Strategically vital, the Red Sea island of Tiran was officially ceded to Saudi Arabia in 2017, as part of a maritime agreement.