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NAVY HELICOPTER APPARENTLY TARGET OF FLARES

Oct. 5, 2001 – Suspected protesters in two small boats fired what appeared to be two marine flares at a U.S. Navy helicopter from restricted waters off Vieques Thursday, a Navy spokeswoman said Friday.
Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Goode said that the flares missed the SH-3 Sea King helicopter and "nobody was injured."
Navy and police patrol boats along with a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter and an SH-3 Navy helicopter had been dispatched to pursue the unidentified boats because they were trespassing in a restricted area, Goode said. When the Navy helicopter approached the trespassing boats, she said, they fired the flares at it.
A Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas O'Brien, said Friday that the Coast Guard cutter Matinicus "chased the two unidentified boats as they sped away to the west hugging the shoreline." Meanwhile, he said, another Coast Guard cutter, the Vashon, moved to intercept the fleeing boats from the west. He said the cutters converged off Vieques' southern coast near Esperanza and "observed the two unidentified boats leaving the water on boat trailers at Puerto Real."
Goode said the FBI is investigating the incident. Efforts to reach FBI officials for information were unsuccessful.
The bombing range off Vieques is currently being used by the Navy's USS John F. Kennedy Battle Group for essential training using inert, non-explosive ammunition rounds.
Navy exercises in the area have prompted widespread protests by residents of the island, which is a part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and by residents of Puerto Rico itself and elsewhere. "Let's hope that anybody [else] that decides to protest does it legally," Goode said Friday.
The island of some 9,100 inhabitants, many of them related to Virgin Islands residents, is often visible roughly 20 miles southwest of St. Thomas and 40 miles northwest of St. Croix. The sounds of bombs detonating often can be heard on the west end of St. Thomas.

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Oct. 5, 2001 - Suspected protesters in two small boats fired what appeared to be two marine flares at a U.S. Navy helicopter from restricted waters off Vieques Thursday, a Navy spokeswoman said Friday.
Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Goode said that the flares missed the SH-3 Sea King helicopter and "nobody was injured."
Navy and police patrol boats along with a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter and an SH-3 Navy helicopter had been dispatched to pursue the unidentified boats because they were trespassing in a restricted area, Goode said. When the Navy helicopter approached the trespassing boats, she said, they fired the flares at it.
A Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas O'Brien, said Friday that the Coast Guard cutter Matinicus "chased the two unidentified boats as they sped away to the west hugging the shoreline." Meanwhile, he said, another Coast Guard cutter, the Vashon, moved to intercept the fleeing boats from the west. He said the cutters converged off Vieques' southern coast near Esperanza and "observed the two unidentified boats leaving the water on boat trailers at Puerto Real."
Goode said the FBI is investigating the incident. Efforts to reach FBI officials for information were unsuccessful.
The bombing range off Vieques is currently being used by the Navy's USS John F. Kennedy Battle Group for essential training using inert, non-explosive ammunition rounds.
Navy exercises in the area have prompted widespread protests by residents of the island, which is a part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and by residents of Puerto Rico itself and elsewhere. "Let's hope that anybody [else] that decides to protest does it legally," Goode said Friday.
The island of some 9,100 inhabitants, many of them related to Virgin Islands residents, is often visible roughly 20 miles southwest of St. Thomas and 40 miles northwest of St. Croix. The sounds of bombs detonating often can be heard on the west end of St. Thomas.