Two US Military Black Hawk helicopters crashed, nine soldiers killed in mid-air fireball, Kentucky, US
Nine soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk military helicopters crashed into each other in mid-air at Kentucky's Fort Campbell on Wednesday, 29 March 2023. Emergency services raced to the scene in Trigg County, Kentucky at around 22h15 after the HH60 Blackhawks crashed into each other during a routine training exercise. The helicopters were said to be from Fort Campbell, a US military base. There were five soldiers in one helicopter and four in the other.
Kentucky State Police (KSP) was at the scene assisting the military investigation, along with several other agencies. KSP said the two Blackhawks crashed in a field area and no residential damage is being reported. A perimeter was established around the debris field and the few residents in the area were asked to evacuate.
Officials identified the nine soldiers killed as: Warrant Officer 1 Jeffery Barnes, 33, of Milton, Fla. Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23, of Austin, Texas Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza, 36, of Jackson, Mo Sgt Isaac J Gayo, 27, of Los Angeles, Calif. Staff Sgt Joshua C. Gore, 25, of Morehead City, N.C. Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy, 32, of Cape Coral, Fla. Staff Sgt Taylor Mitchell, 30, of Mountain Brook, Ala. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32, of Rolla, Mo. and Sgt David Solinas Jr, 23, of Oradell, N.J.
Service officials still have not released specific information on the cause of the crash. An Army aviation safety team from Fort Rucker, Ala. is currently conducting an investigation into the accident.
Brig Gen John Lubas, the 101st Airborne Division deputy commander, said in a press conference on 30 March 2023 that the two crews were training on flying aircraft formations with night-vision goggles. The aircraft landed in an open field near a residential neighbourhood in a county near the Army installation.
The cause of the crash remains unclear and will be investigated by the US Army Combat Readiness Centre in line with normal procedures.
Weather conditions are thought to have been clear with little to no wind.
In a statement, Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office said, "At approximately 10pm yesterday two 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) helicopters crashed in Trigg County, Kentucky. The crewmembers were flying two HH60 Blackhawk helicopters during a routine training mission when the incident occurred. The status of the crew members is unknown at this time. The command is currently focused on caring for the service members and their families. More information will be released as it becomes available. The incident is under investigation."
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear shared his thoughts and prayers with those affected. He tweeted, "We’ve got some tough news out of Fort Campbell, with early reports of a helicopter crash and fatalities are expected. @kystatepolice, @KentuckyEM and local officials are responding. We will share more information as available. Please pray for all those affected."
Locals said that several military helicopters had been flying over the area over the past few nights. One witness, who lives around half a mile away, told WKDZ Radio that they heard a "pop" and "two booms". Another nearby resident said he heard what was thought to be a collision.
Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Airborne Division, the US Army's only air assault division. Nicknamed the "Screaming Eagles," the division was activated in August 1942 and gained renown during World War II in the D-Day landings and the Battle of the Bulge. More recently the division has seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last month, two Tennessee National Guard pilots were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed along an Alabama highway during a training exercise.
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