Five US service members were killed in an aircraft crash during a training flight in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on Friday evening, according to a statement from US European Command.
The accident occurred during a routine air refueling mission as part of military training, EUCOM said. All five service members on board the helicopter died.
Search and rescue efforts began immediately after the accident. It’s unclear exactly what happened or at what point in the flight the crash occurred, but the accident remains under investigation.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen,” the military said in a statement.
European Command previously stressed that the incident was not related to Israel’s fighting in Gaza or the fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border, stating: “We can definitively say that the aircraft sortie was purely related to training and there are no indications of hostile activity.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday, “Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who have lost a precious loved one – a piece of their soul. Our entire nation shares their grief.”
Service members, Biden continued, “willingly take risks to keep the American people safe and secure. And their daily bravery and selflessness is an enduring testament to what is best in our nation.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin similarly called the accident “another stark reminder that the brave men and women who defend our great nation put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our country safe.”
“They represent the best of America,” he said in a statement. “We will remember their service and their sacrifice.”
This story has been updated with additional information.