Five American service members were killed in a crash late Friday after their helicopter had a “mishap” during a training exercise and went into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, officials said Sunday.
U.S. European Command said in an initial statement on Saturday that the cause of the crash was under investigation but “there are no indications of hostile activity.”
The aircraft was conducting a “routine air refueling mission,” according to European Command’s latest statement. Further details were not provided.
The names of the dead have not yet been released, pending notification of relatives.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in his own statement that “while we continue to gather more information about this deadly crash, it is 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. We will remember their service and their sacrifice.”
“My prayers are with the patriots we have lost today and their families, loved ones, and teammates,” Austin said.
European Command officials and Austin’s statement initially conflicted on the timing of the incident, whether it was late Friday or early Saturday. The Pentagon said Sunday afternoon that it was late Friday.
President Joe Biden publicly mourned the deaths, saying in a statement that military members “put their lives on the line for our country every day. They 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.”
Acknowledging the crash occurred at the start of Veterans Day weekend, Biden said, “We once more affirm the sacred obligation we bear to those who volunteer to serve our nation as well as their families, caregivers, and survivors.”
“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,” the president said.
ABC News’ Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.