9 soldiers dead after two Black Hawk helicopters crash in Kentucky
Fort Campbell officials reported the helicopters crashed during a training exercise in Trigg County.
CADIZ, Ky. (WSMV) - A military investigation is underway, and nine soldiers are dead after two Black Hawk helicopters from Fort Campbell crashed Wednesday night in Kentucky, according to state and federal officials.
The helicopters crashed just after 10 p.m. on Wednesday near Maple Grove Road and Lancaster Road in Cadiz, said Brig. Gen. John Lubas, a deputy commanding officer for operations at Fort Campbell’s 101st Airborne Division. All nine crew members, four soldiers in one helicopter and five in the other, died in the crash, Lubas said at a press conference at Fort Campbell Thursday morning. They have been identified as:
· Warrant Officer 1 Jeffery Barnes, 33, of Milton, Florida
· Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23, of Austin, Texas
· Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza, 36, of Jackson, Missouri
· Sgt. Isaacjohn Gayo, 27, of Los Angeles, California
· Staff Sgt. Joshua C. Gore, 25, of Morehead City, North Carolina
· Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy, 32, of Cape Coral, Florida
· Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, 30, of Mountain Brook, Alabama
· Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32, of Rolla, Missouri
· Sgt. David Solinas Jr, 23, of Oradell, New Jersey
“This is a truly tragic loss for our families, our division, and Fort Campbell,” Lubas said. “Our number one priority is caring for the families and soldiers ... Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and soldiers during this difficult time.”
WSMV4 talked the family of soldier Caleb Gore, who is from Wayne County, North Carolina.
“He was a loving and wonderful child, everything a father could possibly wish for,” Tim Gore, his dad, said in a tribute. “He couldn’t wait to join the Army. (He) enlisted before he graduated. He loved the army. (He) become an airborne medic and studied to get in ‘in-flight certification’ so he could do medical intervention in the helicopter as he performed the rescue.
Gore said his son was soon to become a registered nurse and was taking leadership training so that he could continue his career as he got older by training others in this field.
“He was a real-life Captain America with the only desire of his heart to rescue those in harm’s way,” his dad wrote.
Another soldier killed in the crash, Taylor Mitchell, from Mountain Brooke, Alabama, had served in the military for nine years. He leaves his wife, Hayli Jo, behind.
Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted late Wednesday he had been notified about the crash and fatalities were expected. At the press conference Thursday, Beshear said state resources would be made available to the families of the crash victims.
“Today is a tough and tragic day for Kentucky,” Beshear said. “We are blessed to live in the freest country in the history of planet earth, but we must remember that freedom relies on those who are willing to serve and some of which make the ultimate sacrifice.”
Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden said tragedies involving Fort Campbell service members affect everyone in Montgomery County.
“Our community grieves for the nine lives lost in last night’s tragic helicopter crash in Trigg County, Kentucky. Tragedies involving Fort Campbell service members affect everyone in Montgomery County because we are one big community. The service members and their families are our friends and neighbors. Our children attend school together, we live next door to each other, and we worship in the same churches,” Golden said in a statement. “Montgomery County is here for the families and for those who served with the nine service members of the 101st who died in incident involving the two Black Hawk helicopters. We love them and are praying for them. Whatever we as a community can do to help, we will. If there is one thing this week has taught us, we need to take time to tell and show our family and friends how much we love them.”
Rep. Ronnie Glynn, D-Clarksville, was in the Army for 23 years including a tour with the 82nd Airborne Division, serving in four countries and completing three combat deployments between Afghanistan and Iraq. His final stop was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell.
“I was saddened to wake up to the news of the loss of nine Fort Campbell soldiers this morning,” Glynn said in a statement. “The 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell is close to my heart. It was my final duty station in the Army before retiring in Clarksville. I know all of Montgomery County, and Tennessee feels the pain of this loss and will join me in praying for their families.”
Kentucky State Police (KSP), alongside federal investigators, continue to investigate the crash site. The helicopters crashed into a field area, so no residential or commercial properties were damaged, officials said. A perimeter was established around the debris field, and the few residents in the area were asked to evacuate.
Nick Tomaszewski, of Cadiz, said he often observes Fort Campbell helicopters near his home. Tomaszewski said the two helicopters that flew by on Wednesday night seemed out of the ordinary.
“So, it’s nothing out of the norm to see helicopters. We see them all the time,” he said. “Tonight, there were two that were coming kind of straight up over our house, headed straight northbound. I told my wife, ‘Wow, those look really close tonight’ for whatever reason.’ About a minute later, they were coming across, and there was a large explosion in the sky. (It) almost looked like a firework went off, and then the entire tree line lit up.”
Law enforcement and military vehicles continue to move in and out of the crash site. An American flag could be seen through the side window of one emergency vehicle. It was draped over where a gurney would be placed inside.
Beshear said the Kentucky community will continue to support those who lost loved ones in the crash.
“We are going to do what we always do. We are going to wrap our arms around these families, and we’re going to be there for them,” he said. “We’re going to let them know they are loved, they are special, and if they’ll allow us to carry some of their grief, we will do that for as long as we can.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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