Two Blackhawk helicopters crashed in the snow just yards from a busy ski resort when a training exercise went wrong in Utah.
Video from the scene near Salt Lake City showed a huge cloud of snow billowed into the air as the helicopters collided.
Skiers nearby who witnessed the aftermath of the incident described hearing a sound similar to an explosion.
Utah National Guard spokesman Jared Jones said that the helicopters were taking part in standard training exercise but crashed on U.S. Forest Service land just outside the boundaries of Snowbird Ski Resort.
One of the helicopters lost its blade while landing which then hit the tail rotor of the second helicopter, causing the crash.
They plunged to the ground and both sustained damage while one of the aircraft landed upside down.
Jones said there were around eight people on board at the time and it was routine for pilots in train to land in difficult areas regardless of weather conditions to prepare for combat.
He said efforts were under way to investigate the incident and to remove the damaged equipment from the mountainside.
‘We do train on the edge so that we’re ready for a combat environment anywhere in the world. The crews assume some level of risk.
‘Every time you go fly a helicopter, there’s a little bit of danger involved. I’m just happy everyone is OK,’ he said.
One skier, Joseph Schafer, 23, from Provo, said he heard a thud which he assumed was one of the explosions occasionally set off to control avalanches.
He realised it was a crash when he saw a helicopter’s rotor fly out of the cloud of snow.
He was thankful nobody was seriously hurt, but said skiers like him were sad when the resort closed lifts and trams near the crash site.
Other skiers and snowboarders who had packed the resort after the Presidents Day weekend said they also heard the boom and saw dust and broken propeller blades.
Noah Sikorski, 18, from Cottonwood Heights, Utah, said he saw the helicopters go down at a flat area that’s often used for snowmobile lessons.
Though the landing at first appeared controlled, he said he was alarmed when he saw debris hurling toward the chairlift he was on.
He later saw four crew members in National Guard uniform lugging a stretcher with gear and equipment strapped on.
Snowbird is known as one of the nation’s premier ski and snowboard destinations because of ample snowfall and the variety of terrain.
The two UH-60 helicopters crashed near Mineral Basin, a normally windy canyon on the backside of the resort known for its expert terrain.
The crash comes about a year after two similar helicopter crashes. In January 2021, a UH-60 Blackhawk crashed during a training exercise and killed three in New York. The following month, a similar crash killed three in Boise, Idaho