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Errant Bomb From Navy Jet Kills 4 Americans, New Zealander in KuwaitAired March 12, 2001 - 3:18 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: From CNN Center here in Atlanta, we want to bring you up to date on a story we've been following here throughout the day and give you the latest breaking developments on the accident involving a U.S. Naval aircraft happening in Kuwait at a training area there. Already, there are reports that five people have been killed. Our national security correspondent David Ensor standing by now at the Pentagon.
David, what can you tell us?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Joie, as you say, Pentagon officials are confirming that 10 -- that five people have been killed and 10 are injured. There are unconfirmed reports there may be a sixth person dead. Of the five confirmed dead, four of them are American servicemen, one is a New Zealander. We do not know whether the 10 who have been injured are servicemen or civilians and what nationality they may be.
Now this took place, as you said, in Kuwait, where there was a training exercise under way. What happened was that a Navy F-18 hornet jet from the USS Harry Truman, the aircraft carrier that was -- that is currently patrolling in the Persian Gulf took off and then dropped a 500-pound bomb over the Al Udairi range in Kuwait. This is a training range where bombing exercises are sometimes executed.
Unfortunately, for reasons that no one is yet able to explain, the bomb hit some people, some spectators who were on the range. We do not know whether the mistake was on the part of the pilot or whether it was the mistake of the spectators. But in any case as I said, we know at least five people have been killed, 10 injured -- four of them seriously, and there may be a sixth death, although we can't confirm that as yet, Joie.
CHEN: David, explain something to me. In your observation of military training the past, is it customary for live ammunition to be used in a training mission like this?
ENSOR: Absolutely. The feeling is that without live ammunition on certain kinds of exercises, you don't learn what you need to learn in order to be able to use it effectively in a real hot war, Joie.
CHEN: And we understand this information that you've confirmed, New Zealander among those killed. I am a little bit at a lost to understand what a New Zealander would be doing as part of an exercise by the U.S. Navy in the area of Kuwait. Why would a New Zealander be involved and would this be a civilian or a military personnel?
Well, our understanding is that the five that we got confirmed dead are military personnel, so presumably, the New Zealander was in uniform. It is quite common for allies to send observers to training exercises around the world. Very common in the NATO area in Europe, but quite common also in the Persian Gulf area. Observers from various other military forces like to see how well the U. S. forces are doing, and they like to watch exactly how they are performing. So this was an observer from New Zealand, as we understand it, Joie.
CHEN: And talk to us a little bit about what we know about how the accident happened. A 500-pound bomb would seem to me to be a very large ordinance in an area where there were vehicles parked. Why would there be vehicles there?
ENSOR: Well, the Al Udairi range is a quite large range, and it would appear that either the pilot was given the wrong coordinates or there was a misunderstanding on the ground to exactly how the exercise was going to be executed. It's not as if it's a small area. It's a vast desert area out there in Kuwait. But clearly, there was a misunderstanding about where people were supposed to be, and that's why this tragedy has taken place.
CHEN: The late information we are getting is that the injured from this have been taken to a Kuwaiti hospital. Can you talk about the nature of the treatment that they might receive? I mean, would this be -- advance us up to date as any of them would be treated at anywhere else.
ENSOR: Well, there's a permanent U.S. military presence in Kuwait, and it's pretty well established ever since Kuwait was liberated from Iraqi occupation. So there is an infrastructure there that you would be able to find top-quality military doctors, Kuwaiti and American, in place there to take care of the injured. We gather that the 10 injured that we know of, four of those are seriously injured. And as I said earlier, it's possible that one of them may have died since we have an unconfirmed report that there's been a sixth casualty, a sixth person who's died.
CHEN: At the Pentagon for us, national security correspondent David Ensor. Again, CNN is continuing to follow with the very latest developments on this accident reported to us from Kuwait late this afternoon. We're continuing to follow with our sources at the Pentagon as well as in the region. Get the latest information here.
Now we return to TALKBACK LIVE after a break.
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