KATHMANDU, Nepal– The wreckage of a U.S. Marine helicopter that went missing with six U.S. Marines and two Nepali service members on board has been found, Nepal’s defense secretary said Friday.
Three bodies were discovered in the burned wreckage of the helicopter, which was delivering aid to earthquake survivors, Defense Secretary Ishwori Paudyal said.
The news came only hours after a local army official said the wreckage of the helicopter — missing since Tuesday — had been found on the steep slopes of a mountain east of Kathmandu.
The American chopper was spotted in the Gorthali area, at an altitude of 11,200 feet (3,400 meters), said Brig. Gen. Binoj Basnet. Its discovery follows intensive searches from the air and on foot, amid treacherous terrain.
The U.S. Joint Task Force confirmed the wreckage, 8 miles north of Charikot, was that of the missing UH-1Y Huey helicopter. It has not yet commented on the reported discovery of bodies.
Four pararescuemen and one combat rescue officer are now on the ground, the Joint Task Force statement said. “The assessment of the site is ongoing and a thorough investigation will be conducted,” it said.
The helicopter lost contact Tuesday evening as it helped with relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Nepal, Pentagon officials said.
Radio transmissions indicated its crew was having some type of fuel problem before it went missing near Charikot, roughly 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of the capital of Kathmandu.
The helicopter was delivering humanitarian aid after the devastating earthquake that struck the nation on April 25, killing thousands of people. Another strong earthquake hit Nepal on Tuesday afternoon, causing more damage and casualties.
The area where it lost contact is near the epicenter of Tuesday’s magnitude-7.3 earthquake.
About 300 American personnel are on the ground in Nepal helping with earthquake relief efforts.
The death toll from the two earthquakes is now 8,460, Nepal’s Home Ministry said Friday, of which 117 are from Tuesday’s quake.
Another 6,271 people are still receiving medical treatment, of whom 1,700 were injured in the second quake.