Military choppers startle downtown Miami

(MIAMI HERALD)   The Brickell choppers might return tonight.

A military spokeswoman said training exercises were scheduled to take place again Wednesday night in Miami. Army public affairs officer Kimberly Tiscione said she couldn’t give out too much information, but she did say it should be done by midnight.

Wednesday was scheduled to be the last night of training, she said.

But Tuesday night there were plenty of Brickell residents wondering what the heck was happening.

Lt. Russ Tippett, spokesman for the Coast Guard happens to live in Brickell, and said the choppers didn’t make it easy to sleep Tuesday night, as the drill went on for hours.

“It was extremely loud and annoying,’’ Tippett said, theorizing at first that it may have been a U.S. Customs Operation.

It all began about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, when at least three large Black Hawk-like choppers landed in a parking lot of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Biscayne Boulevard and 14th Street.

The choppers lifted off over the Brickell and Miami river area. Men who appeared to be SWAT team members were seen taking part in the exercise.

On the online social media network Twitter, tweets flew as the events unfolded.

“Three choppers just dropped a group of men on top of the Bank of America building in Brickell,” tweeted a man identified as Ianik Drouin, about 9:45 p.m.

“I just saw one of the Brickell choppers turn so quickly, it had to go sideways,” tweeted Sarah Elles about midnight.

Diana Pedroni also had trouble sleeping.

“Oh not again! #brickellchoppers flying on top of my building,” tweeted Pedroni about midnight.

“I couldn’t see them a lot of the time, but I could hear them because there are echoes around the buildings,” said Neilson Paty, who lives in Brickell Bay. “We see helicopters every day, but it was very obvious that these are not tourist or U.S. Coast Guard helicopters.”

Wednesday morning, a Miami police spokesman said it was all part of a planned Homeland Security exercise, and that the helicopters were conducting an “operational” training drill. He was not allowed to comment on details of the drill.

Army public affairs officer Tiscione said the military tried to complete the training with as little impact on residents as possible. Police would be at the training sites, she said, and 911 centers were aware of the training if people called with questions.

“We absolutely recognize that that there is an impact on residents who live downtown,” Tiscione said, “but this is incredibly valuable training for our military personnel.”

Paty said he understands that the city had reasons to not inform residents about the drill and that he is not upset for not getting any alerts about the commotion.

“It was loud enough to wake up some people, but it wasn’t overwhelming,” he said.

Miami Herald staff writers Laura Figueroa, Andrea Torres and Diana Moskovitz contributed to this report.

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