CHICO, TEX. -- The Chinook helicopter that crashed in a field Thursday, killing 10 soldiers and injuring eight others, suffered mechanical problems as soon as it took off from Fort Hood and made two unscheduled landings before it caught fire and plummeted to the ground, a survivor said.
Officials at Fort Sill, Okla., where the helicopter was based, grounded the base's seven remaining twin-rotor CH47D helicopters pending inspections.
Capt. Calvin Turner, a survivor, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that a fire broke out before the crash.
"There was a lot of black smoke and that's all I remember," Turner said.
A Fort Hood spokesman said the pilot of the helicopter, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ronald W. Bender, reported a "fault light" on his instrument panel immediately after takeoff and returned to Fort Hood to check on it.
Twenty-one minutes after taking off again, Bender radioed the Fort Worth air control tower and requested permission to make a "precautionary landing," according to air control center manager Jim Howden.
"Our controller asked if it was an emergency and the pilot said it was not," Howden said.
Turner said all the men aboard rushed to the cab when they noticed the smoke in the back of the helicopter.
Bruce Jay, a spokesman for Boeing, the helicopter's manufacturer, said a sudden shift in weight when all the passengers rushed to the front "would make it more difficult" for even an experienced pilot to land safely.