ZAPATA, Texas (CNN) # Four people were killed when two U.S. Marine helicopters crashed Wednesday night when they were assisting the Border Patrol in a drug case along the Texas-Mexico border, authorities said.
The AH-1W Super Cobra choppers “were conducting a nighttime aviation reconnaissance counterdrug operation in support of the U.S. Border Patrol,” a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman said.
The crashes occurred about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night near Zapata, Texas, on the Mexican border, about 60 miles from Laredo, Texas.
The crash appears to be a mid-air collision, according to a Pentagon official.
While the pilots have night vision goggles, a spokesman for the military in Texas did not know if the pilots were wearing the goggles at the time of the collision.
The Marines and helicopters were part of Helicopter Marine Light Attack squadron 775, a Marine Reserve unit, based at Camp Pendleton, California.
The unit was being used as part of Joint Task Force Six, a military program which provides counterdrug support to the nation’s law enforcement, including the U.S. Border Patrol.
Military assets only play an assistance role and do not engage on the front line, said Armando Carrasco, a spokesman for the joint task force.
The names of the victims were being withheld pending notification of relatives. Both choppers carried a two-person crew, a pilot and a co-pilot, and all were officers, according to the Marines
The accident is under investigation.