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Dow Jones International News
US Checking If Helicopter Caused Injuries In Puerto Rico
November 26, 2002
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)--The U.S. Army is investigating whether a low-flying helicopter over Vieques caused four people to be injured by flying debris, officials said Tuesday.
The four people told police they had been struck by zinc siding that had flown off their shacks when a helicopter flew nearby late Monday, spokesman Lt. Col. Nicolas Britto said.
"There were three Army helicopters flying in that area," Britto said. "We are investigating the allegations."
The four people, including a teenager, were treated at a Vieques hospital and released, police said. One person had a large bruise on his head, police said.
Vieques Commissioner Juan R. Fernandez said he would file a complaint with authorities to investigate the incident.
It was unclear what the helicopters were doing in Vieques , as the Army does not normally use the island for training, said Army spokesman Steve Lucas, based at U.S. Army Southern Command in Miami.
"I was surprised when I heard the report," he said.
The U.S. Navy, however, has used its firing range on the island for six decades in training exercises.
Protests against the Navy bombing exercises surged in the U.S. Caribbean territory in 1999, when a civilian security guard was killed by off-target bombs on the firing range. Since then, only inert bombs have been used.
President George W. Bush has pledged the Navy will halt training on Vieques by May. Activists now are pressing for the U.S. government to clean up the bombing range.