Marines Blame Crew for Italy Crash

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The Marines are not just holding the pilot responsible for the Prowler air crash that killed 20 people at an Italian ski resort, they’re considering charges against all four crew members. “There’s only one set of flight controls on that aircraft,” says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. “Pointing the finger at all four men suggests there may have been a pact among them to engage in some sort of horseplay. The Marines were not impressed that all four crewmen initially refused to testify, allowing them to collude and present a common account.”

The four men now face an Article 32 hearing -- the equivalent of a civilian grand jury -- which will decide on a court-martial. Thompson believes that the Marines will be tougher on their fliers than the Air Force was on the F-15 pilots who accidentally shot down two Blackhawk helicopters in 1994. “The Marines have a reputation for accountability,” says Thompson, “and everyone in uniform will be watching very closely.”