Sixteen Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian were killed when a military helicopter crashed Sunday near the Colombian border, the state news agency reported. A brigadier general was among those killed. President Hugo Chavez said the soldiers were patrolling the 1,400-mile (2,300-kilometer) border separating Venezuela and Colombia when the local military base lost contact with their Mi-17 helicopter shortly after midday. The helicopter crashed in a mountainous area called El Capote, the state-run Bolivarian News Agency reported. Two pilots and the entire crew were killed. Army Brig.Gen. Domingo Alberto Feneite and Cristian Velazquez, a civilian, were among the victims, according to the state news agency. Chavez sent condolences to the families of the victims during his weekly television and radio program. They died while they were on duty and serving the fatherland," he said. Neither Chavez nor the Venezuelan military mentioned the cause of the crash.