At approximately 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter out of Fort Bliss dropped an ammo box from an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet through the roof of an elementary school during a training exercise over El Paso, Texas. An investigation into the incident has been launched.
Parkland Elementary School reported no injuries in the incident, though the ammo box left a hole in the roof and caused portions of the building to lose power. Because the incident occurred after classes had ended for the day, there were no students in vicinity of the impact when it occurred, though damage was reported in at least one classroom. Officials from Fort Bliss were on the scene within 30 minutes to recover the ammunition. Their statements indicated that the ammo can weighed approximately 40 pounds, but carried enough force to cause serious damage due to the height that it fell.
This box of ammo fell from a military helicopter, crashed through a roof, and landed in the middle of a classroom at Parkland Elementary in El Paso, TX, according to Ysleta ISD.
Fortunately, the incident happened at 3:45pm local – when all the kids had left. No injuries. pic.twitter.com/2ID4a4HdRL
— Kurt Chirbas (@kchirbas) May 18, 2018
Although some parents expressed concerns about potential “detonation” of the ammunition in the fall, Fort Bliss officials have been clear that there was no threat of rounds being ignited or otherwise fired in the incident.
“I’m extremely sorry for any damage done to the neighboring elementary school, and I am grateful that no one was injured,” Col. Jay Hopkins, commander of the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade, said in a statement. “The incident is under investigation.”
The Black Hawk had a normal flight crew compliment of two pilots, a door gunner and a crew chief during the training mission, as well as an additional evaluator on board at the time of the incident. Now, Army officials are investigating whether the dropped ammo box was the result of negligence on the part of members of the crew, or if it occurred due to any kind of equipment failure.
“The investigation will bear out whether this was individual error or material failure,”Fort Bliss Colonel Steve Murphy said. “We have to do that investigation and based off that we will see where we need to go next to place the blame.”
Murphy went on to tell the press that Fort Bliss officials are going to “reassess current flight patterns to ensure that incidents similar to this will not occur again.”
“I have full faith and confidence that these were highly skilled individuals going out and doing great things,” Murphy said. ” We just have to determine how and why it happened.”
This isn’t the first time in recent history that a school has fallen victim to a problem involving U.S. military helicopters. In December, the Okinawa prefectural assembly in Japan voted unanimously in support of a resolution that demanded the immediate suspension of U.S. Marine Corps aircraft conducting flights or drills over local schools and hospitals after a series of aircraft mishaps, including one incident in which a window fell out of a Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter into an elementary school playground, injuring one student.
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense