HANOI, Vietnam -- Officials and relatives paid grief-stricken final farewells Tuesday to eight Vietnamese killed in the crash of a helicopter carrying a team searching for Americans still missing from the Vietnam War.
The eight military officers were among nine Vietnamese and seven Americans who died in the crash Saturday while preparing for excavations in the search for 1,992 Americans still listed as missing in action.
"It's with great sorrow that I'm here," U.S. Ambassador Pete Peterson told the memorial service. "We deeply share the loss of our Vietnamese friends who perished, and feel their loss as deeply as we feel our own."
Eight flag-draped coffins were laid in a row in a giant hall at a military airport on the outskirts of Hanoi that was frequently bombed by American planes during the war.
Dressed in white smocks with traditional mourning bands tied around their heads, weeping family members and friends filed through the hall as wails of grief punctuated the incense-filled room.
A separate memorial service was to be held Tuesday for Nguyen Thanh Ha, deputy director of Vietnam's MIA search group, known as the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons.
The bodies of the seven Americans were to be flown to Hawaii later in the week.
The Russian-made MI-17 helicopter crashed Saturday into a fog-covered mountainside in central Quang Binh province, just outside the village of Thanh Trach, about 250 miles south of Hanoi.
On Tuesday, the Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted a top Vietnamese air force official as saying that heavy fog led the Russian-made MI-17 chopper to veer into a mountain.
"With very limited visibility, the MI-17 deviated to the left. When they realized that, it was too late, and when the aircraft tried to climb, its rear side hit the mountain," it quoted deputy air force commander Maj. Gen. Mai Van Cuong as saying.
Among the Americans killed was Lt. Col. George D. "Marty" Martin III, 40, of Hopkins, S.C., who was to take over command of the Hanoi detachment of the Hawaii-based MIA task force in July.
The other American victims were the unit's current commander, Army Lt. Col. Rennie Cory Jr., 43, of Fayetteville, N.C., Air Force Maj. Charles E. Lewis of Las Cruces, N.M.; Master Sgt. Steven L. Moser of San Diego; Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Flynn of Huntsville, Ala.; Navy Chief Petty Officer Pedro Juan Gonzalez of Buckeye, Ariz; and Army Sgt. 1st Class Tommy James Murphy. Murphy was from Terrell County, Ga., but lived in Hawaii.
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