Marine from Champaign Dies in Helicopter Crash

September 20, 2011

A Champaign native who was a pilot in the Marine Corps has died in a helicopter crash.

Capt. Jeffrey Bland of Champaign and 1st Lt. Thomas Heitmann of Mendota were killed when the helicopter crashed during training at Camp Pendleton in California, according to a statement issued by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Their AH-1W Cobra helicopter went down Monday during training in a remote area of Camp Pendleton. The helicopter burned, igniting a brush fire.

Bland was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1997 and Heitmann was commissioned in 2008. They were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, Marine Aircraft Group 39, of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Air Station Miramar.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Story source: AP