Did Brian Williams Bungle the Apology as Well?

Travis J. Tritten's latest Stars and Stripes dispatch contains more bad news for the NBC newsman

StarsandStripesLogoAccording to a military man who spoke to the publication that has been at the forefront of this story, yes.

From Stars and Stripes Capitol Hill reporter Travis J. Tritten’s report:

Williams admitted on air that he was not on the Chinook that was struck by enemy fire, saying he was “instead on a following aircraft” and writing a Facebook apology to soldiers saying “I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG.” But Army flight crews told Stars and Stripes the NBC anchor was actually flying with a different helicopter company altogether — in a different direction, and linked to the attacked unit by radio only.

… “I think it is misleading” for Williams to say his aircraft was following behind the Chinook hit by two rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, said David Luke, a retired soldier from Texas who was a flight engineer with a company of the helicopters under the 159th Aviation Regiment, which was known as Hercules and based out of Savannah, Georgia.

According to Luke, the Williams formation of three Chinooks was headed back to Kuwait, flying at one point over a white Iraqi pick-up truck. Another company of Chinooks, he says, flew past in the opposite direction towards Baghdad and were subsequently fired on by the men in that pick-up.

There is also, in this Tritten report, a possibly relevant detail in terms of what could have possibly set Williams down the false-memories path. A flight engineer on the Chinook carrying Williams and the NBC crew recalls that a microphone was placed in one of the helicopter headsets, recording under-fire radio reports from the other Chinook company [a.k.a. Big Windy]. Clips from those intercepted recordings were later used for the NBC News report.

Update (8:30 p.m.):
This is the first bright-side development for Williams. The pilot of the helicopter Williams was traveling on, while admonishing his passenger for some minor embellishments, confirmed to CNN’s Jake Tapper the helicopter took small arms fire:

All three of the helicopters were hit by small arms fire, Rich Krell said, supporting Williams’ past claims about that. “The bridge expansions we were hauling took most of the hits,” Krell said.

The three Chinooks took evasive maneuvers. Krell’s helicopter dropped off its payload, then met up with the other two about 45 minutes later. That may explain why the other crew members told Stars and Stripes that Williams arrived in the area later.

Krell said of Williams, “Yeah, he messed up some things and said some things he shouldn’t have. I [first] heard it a few years ago.”

Update (10:15 p.m.):
There is a separate report in the Omaha World Herald that suggests: a) The Williams helicopter was piloted by Chris Simeone, not Krell; and, b) the helicopter during the flight did not take any ground fire:

Williams had been in another Chinook coming from Camp Udairi. This one belonged to Company B of the 159th Aviation Regiment and was piloted by Chris Simeone. It was part of a four-bird flight of Chinooks.

Simeone, now retired from the Army and working as a civilian at Fort Rucker, Alabama, recalled Wednesday he was reluctant to carry Williams and his camera crew. “I didn’t want them on the aircraft, but [his superiors] said, ‘You’re taking them,’” Simeone said.

He said the flight was uneventful until they neared Rams and encountered the sandstorm. They never encountered any ground fire or rockets along the way, he said.

Update (February 6):
Folks, you cannot make this stuff up. It now appears that the first pilot mentioned above, Krell, also “misremembered.” From Brian Stelter’s updated item:

On Friday morning, Krell told me that “the information I gave you was true based on my memories, but at this point I am questioning my memories.”