(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. military is investigating whether an attack helicopter pilot was “showing off” when he made a low pass over a remote Afghan outpost and then slammed violently into the ground, according to a defense official.
The dramatic crash was captured on amateur eyewitness video, which recently surfaced online.
The video shows an Apache helicopter coming into view before swooping down low over a snowy coalition outpost. The person shooting the video, who has not been identified, shouts in apparent fear as the helicopter narrowly misses a building and then seems to chuckle in relief after it pulls back up. But after coming back around, the pilot apparently loses control after the steep ascent, drops down low again and slams its belly onto the snowy ground just feet from the camera.
The helicopter skids towards another group of people, but comes off the ground briefly before crashing again in the distance.
A spokesperson for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force told ABC News the video was taken Feb. 6 in the Paktika province in Afghanistan. No one on the ground was injured and the aircrew survived with minor injuries, the spokesperson said.
One former Blackhawk helicopter pilot told ABC News the Apache pilot appeared to be performing a “return to target” maneuver — the low swoop followed up by the 180 degree turn followed by another swoop — a standard combat maneuver for which Apache pilots are generally extensively trained.
There was no enemy activity in the area and multiple military experts said it’s possible the pilot was performing the dangerous maneuver for the benefit of the spectators on the ground.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN