Three soldiers died after two Apache helicopters collide in Alaska, US
Three soldiers died and another was injured when a pair of AH-64 Apache helicopters based at Fort Wainwright crashed Thursday, 27 April 2023, near Healy, Alaska in the US, according to the 11th Airborne Division. The two helicopters from the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment collided while returning from a training flight. Two troops died on scene, a division press release said and a third died on the way to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. The injured soldier is being treated there, though their condition is unclear.
Each AH-64 Apache helicopter was carrying two people at the time of the crash.
The US Army on Saturday released the identities of those killed in the crash: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo, 39, of Oneonta, New York; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle D. McKenna, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart Duane Wayment, 32, of North Logan, Utah.
“This is an incredible loss for these soldiers’ families, their fellow soldiers and for the division,” said Major General Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division. “Our hearts and prayers go out to their families, friends and loved ones and we are making the full resources of the Army available to support them.”
On Friday evening, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville ordered a safety stand down, the Army said in a statement. “The move grounds all Army aviators, except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training,” the Army said.
Army pilots “will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crews have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission,” according to the statement.
The helicopters were returning to Fort Wainwright from a training mission in the Donnelly Training Area when they collided in flight about 50 miles east of Healy. The crash was initially reported at 13h39. Aviation assets from 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright responded to the scene along with aircraft from the Alaska National Guard, coordinated by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Centre.
"The battalion is devastated and mourning the loss of three of our best," said Lt Col Matthew C Carlsen, the 1-25th AB commander. "Our loss, however, cannot be compared to the suffering and loss which the family members of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Eramo, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle McKenna and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart “Stew" Wayment are experiencing.”
"The entire team has come together to focus our thoughts, prayers and actions to provide and sustain them with whatever comfort and support they need at this time, and I promise that this will continue long into the future," Carlsen said. "Our mission now is to focus on the families, the survivors and to honour and cherish their memories. Chris, Kyle, and Stew will forever be 'Little Bears,' 'Vikings,' and 'ToughOnes' of the Arctic Attack."
A Safety Investigation Team from the US Army Combat Readiness Centre, headquartered at Fort Novosel, Alabama, will lead the safety investigation.
The USACRC does not release any information to the public concerning mishap causes, analysis or internal recommendations due to limitations set forth by Department of Defence instructions and Army regulations.
The crash is the second serious Apache crash in Alaska this year. In February, two soldiers were injured when a military helicopter was involved in a rollover accident in Talkeetna. The crash occurred when the helicopter was taking off. Those soldiers were treated and released from the hospital.
It is the second fatal helicopter collision in two months involving Army aircraft. Nine soldiers were killed when two Black Hawks crashed near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in March. According to a preliminary report released earlier this month, the two helicopters collided mid-air before going down. Investigators are still continuing their inquiry into that crash.
Impacted soldiers can find assistance at Fort Wainwright’s Emergence Assistance Centre and from Army Community Service, the release added.
Investigators from the Army Combat Readiness Centre, the service‘s safety authority at Fort Novosel, Alabama, will probe the crash.
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