, BERLIN, Mar 21- At least one police officer died on Thursday after two helicopters collided at Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium during a security exercise for operations against football hooligans, authorities said.
The Berlin fire brigade said in a statement that “several were injured and at least one killed” when the two aircraft crashed into each other at low altitude over a field on the stadium’s grounds at about 0930 GMT during a spring snowstorm.
Police said the dead officer was a pilot and that four police had been hurt, two of them – a man and a woman – seriously.
The stadium was the venue for the 1936 Games where four gold medals for African-American athlete Jesse Owens ruined Adolf Hitler’s dreams of Aryan glory for the Nazi hosts.
It is now the home stadium of Berlin football team Hertha BSC and served as the venue for the 2006 World Cup final.
About 400 federal police were conducting an exercise to prepare for operations against violent football fans.
The daily Bild said on its website that half the officers were playing hooligans, some of them setting off fireworks to mimic a riot situation.
Three helicopters were used in the operation, the third of which landed without incident.
Eyewitnesses said the choppers’ rotors had stirred up snow from the ground as flurries continued from the sky, further limiting visibility, and two of the helicopters’ blades touched.
“It was a real squall – suddenly we heard a bang and someone shouted ‘Everyone on the ground!’,” a witness identified only as Johannes M. told NTV rolling news channel.
“There was blood everywhere. There was an enormous pool of blood next to me.”
Bild said panic broke out among the survivors, many of whom raced to flee the site. Police on the scene cared for the wounded next to the smoking wrecks of the helicopters.