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But a senior American military official said the crash appeared to have been caused by mechanical problems. Other Marine aircraft were close enough to see the Sea Knight when it crashed, the official said.Whichever proves to be the cause, American officials have grown concerned that helicopters may now be much more vulnerable to insurgents, even when the insurgents are not armed with the kinds of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles used against military aircraft in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The other four American helicopters shot down in recent weeks were felled by small-arms fire, not by missiles, according to Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I looked at the sky and saw this big helicopter with double rotors, and it was hit in its tail and burning,” said the witness, who declined to give his name. He said another helicopter with a single rotor was flying just behind the stricken one.
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