U.S. military officials confirmed Sunday that seven Marines were killed by "friendly fire" last week during the Iraqi armored thrust into Saudi Arabia.
A Pentagon spokeswoman told the Deseret News Monday that it had no information about whether Lance Cpl. Dion James Stephenson of Bountiful, Utah, was among them.She said the Central Command in Saudi Arabia has not forwarded that information to the Pentagon.
The confirmation came on a day when six Marines died in separate helicopter crashes in Saudi Arabia.
Maj. Gen. Robert Johnston of the U.S. Central Command in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said the seven Marines, riding in a Light Armored Vehicle in a town about 50 miles west of Khafji on Thursday, were "killed by friendly fire" by an allied plane apparently coming to their support against a column of about 50 Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Johnston said a Marine reconnaissance patrol had "observed some Iraqis trying to cross the border" and the three Marine LAVs responded, allowing the patrol to withdraw.
In the ensuing "very close combat" with the Iraqi troops, he said, the Marines "were actually firing TOWs at the tanks and armored vehicles and receiving Sagger anti-tank missiles from the Iraqis."
Johnston said the LAV was struck on the back left side and "went into the engine compartment on the bottom right. So clearly it was an airborne missile and, and we have every reason to conclude that it was in fact a friendly missile." He said fragments of the missile indicated it was a Maverick missile.
Another LAV also was hit and destroyed, apparently by Iraqi fire, killing four Marines and wounding two. A third Marine LAV on the same reconnaissance mission managed to escape, Pentagon officials said.
Johnston said an investigation into the Marines' deaths was continuing.