Afghan witnesses: Chinook ablaze when it crashed

Afghan children retrieved souvenir-sized pieces of a helicopter shot down by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan where witnesses on Thursday described seeing the chopper burst into flames and break apart before falling from the sky, killing 30 U.S. troops and eight Afghans.

Coalition forces finished recovering the victims’ remains and big sections of the wreckage. Yet small, twisted pieces of the Chinook CH-47 remain scattered on both sides of a slow-flowing river in Wardak province where it crashed before dawn Saturday.

Farhad, a local resident, told Associated Press Television News that the helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade fired from a nearby knoll as it was preparing to land.

“As soon as it was hit, it started burning,” he said, standing in a field still littered with small pieces of the chopper, including a part of a scorched rifle stamped “Made in Germany” and a piece of charred paper with typewritten first aid instructions.

“After it started burning, it crashed. It came down in three pieces,” he added. “We could see it burning from our homes.”

Many of the victims’ bodies were badly mangled and burned, said Farhad, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

The crash about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Kabul was the deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the nearly 10-year Afghan war.