NEW YORK – After nine U.S. soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash late on March 29, the nation’s military archbishop said the tragedy is a “grim reminder” of the risks taken by those in the armed forces.
“This tragic helicopter collision in Kentucky is a grim reminder of the risks taken daily by our men and women in uniform,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services told Crux in a statement. “They put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedom, our values, our way of life, and in the process some pay the ultimate sacrifice.”
The nine soldiers were killed in a training accident that involved two U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters around 10 p.m. on March 29 in Trigg County, Kentucky, according to a statement from nearby Fort Campbell, where all nine soldiers were stationed as members of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
The crash was in a field near a residential area with no injuries on the ground, said Brig. Gen John Lubas, the 101st Airborne deputy commander. One helicopter had five people, the other had four.
“This was a training progression, and specifically they were flying a multi-ship formation, two ships, under night vision goggles at night,” Lubas said at a news conference, adding that officials believe that the accident happened when “they were doing flying, not deliberate medical evacuation drills.”
Fort Campbell is located near the Tennessee border, about 60 miles northwest of Nashville.
The two helicopters, HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, are used by the U.S. Army for security, transport, medical evacuations, search and rescue and other kinds of missions.
Lubas said both helicopters had a device similar to a black box – a device in an aircraft that records its in-flight performance and is often used to investigate crashes – which officials are “hopeful will provide quite a bit of information of what occurred.”
The identities of the soldiers have not been released until the families are notified.
Speaking at the news conference, Kentucky Gov. Anthony Beshear pledged to support the families.
“We’re going to do what we always do,” Beshear said. “We’re going to wrap our arms around these families, and we’re going to be there with them not just for the days, but for the weeks and the months and the years to come.”
Broglio called for prayers for the nine soldiers and their families.
“We pray for the repose of the souls of the nine soldiers who died. We pray also for their families in this time of extreme grief,” Broglio said. “May our Blessed Mother of Sorrows comfort them in this painful hour.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg