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BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 26, 2005 — At least 31 Marines have been killed in an apparently weather-related helicopter crash, and four more died in a firefight, ABC News has learned.

The 35 deaths, if officially confirmed by the military, would make this the deadliest day so far in the Iraq war. Previously, the deadliest day was March 23, 2003, during the first week of the war, when 28 servicemembers were killed.

Low visibility appears to have contributed to the transport helicopter accident near Ar Rutbah, Iraq, about 220 miles west of Baghdad, officials said. The helicopter did not appear to have been downed as a result of enemy fire.

The four other Marines were killed in a firefight in Haditha, in northwestern Iraq about 100 miles from the Syrian border.

Crash Probe

An investigation into the helicopter crash is under way.

According to a military statement, personnel from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing were transporting personnel from the 1st Marine Division to western Iraq when the crash occurred at approximately 1:20 a.m. local time.

The troops were conducting security and stabilization operations, the statement said, and officials added that the Marines were going out to help election workers.

The 1st Marine Division is based out of Camp Pendleton in San Diego.



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