Leader of Marine helicopter squadron fired days before crash

A Marine general fired the commander of a Hawaii helicopter squadron days before two of the unit’s helicopters crashed and killed all 12 Marines on board.

A Marine spokesman said Monday that Brig. Gen. Russell Sanborn, commander of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, lost confidence in the ability of Lt. Col. Edward Pavelka to lead Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.

First Lt. Joseph Butterfield, the spokesman, said in a statement that he wouldn’t release further details because they may become relevant to ongoing investigations.

Pavelka was relieved on Jan. 11. Two aircraft from the squadron crashed on Jan. 14. The 12 men aboard haven’t been found.

Pavelka was replaced by Lt. Col. Eric Purcell, who spoke at a Jan. 22 memorial for the Marines.

The firing was first reported by the Marine Corps Times.

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