Nine soldiers were killed on Wednesday night when two Army HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division crashed in Kentucky, said Lt. Col. Anthony Hoefler, a spokesman for the division.
Based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the two helicopters crashed just after 10 p.m. local time on Wednesday near Highway 68, per local news organization WKRN. Fort Campbell straddles the state line between Kentucky and Tennessee.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement on Thursday honoring the soldiers killed in the crash.
“Last night, we lost nine service members in an accident during a routine training mission in Kentucky,” Austin said. “My heart goes out to the families of these service members and to the members of the 101st Airborne Division who bravely and proudly serve our country each and every day. I’m saddened by this tragic loss, and I am working with Army leadership to make sure our troops and their families receive the care that they need in the wake of this accident.”
The helicopters came down in an open field, so no one on the ground was injured by the crash, said Army Brig. Gen. John Lubas, deputy commanding officer for operations with the 101st Airborne Division.
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The two aircraft involved in the crash are variants of the Black Hawk helicopter that are used for medical evacuation missions, Lubas told reporters on Thursday during a news conference.
The helicopters were training to fly in a multi-ship formation while using night vision goggles at the time of the crash, Lubas said. It is unclear whether the two aircraft collided.
Five soldiers were on one helicopter and four were on the other aircraft, which is typical for such training missions, Lubas said. Neither helicopter radioed that it was in distress prior to the crash.
A safety team from Fort Rucker, Alabama, is expected to be on the scene later on Thursday, he said. Investigators will look at data from the helicopters’ onboard computers to help determine what happened.
“They’re bridging a very diverse and talented team that will look at every possible contributing factor,” Lubas said. “And I think in a short time we will have a much better understanding of what may have contributed to this accident.”
The Army started notifying the nine soldiers’ next of kin on Thursday morning, Lubas said. Some of the soldiers’ relatives live throughout the United States and outside of the country, so it is not yet known how the notification process will take.
This is the second fatal helicopter crash involving a helicopter with the 101st Airborne Division in recent years. Two soldiers died when an AH-64E Apache helicopter crashed in a training flight over Fort Campbell in October 2021.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who attended Thursday’s news conference, praised the soldiers killed in the crash for defending Americans’ freedoms.
“The nine individuals we lost are children of God,” Beshear said. “They will be mourned and missed by their families, by their communities. My faith teaches me that while the body is mortal, the soul is eternal, and we will see them again.”
CORRECTION: 3/30/2023; this story was updated after publication to clarify that the two helicopters that crashed are HH-60 Black Hawks.
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