Officials confirmed that nine army soldiers were killed after two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division crashed late Wednesday in southwestern Kentucky. There were no survivors. Officials at nearby Fort Campbell said Thursday that the two helicopters (which were medical evacuation aircrafts) crashed around 10 p.m. in Trigg County near the Tennessee border. The base said in a statement on Facebook that they were taking part “in a routine training mission when the incident occurred.”
Brig. Gen. John Lubas, deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said during a Thursday morning news conference at Fort Campbell that it’s believed the crash happened while they were flying and not during a medical evacuation drill. The HH-60 Black Hawk is the medical evacuation variant of the helicopter, which can transport a fully equipped 11-person infantry squad. One aircraft had five and the other had four people aboard, which Lubas said is typical and includes the pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and “medics or other personnel.”
The aircraft went down in an open field across from a residential area, so no additional casualties or injuries were reported, he said. According to 101st Airborne Division spokesman Staff Sgt. Joshua Tverberg, the Black Hawks that crashed were two of four total helicopters taking part in the training exercise. One helicopter had stopped to refuel, and another was ahead of the two that went down.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday that he was “saddened by this tragic loss” and was working with the Army to “make sure our troops and their families receive the care that they need in the wake of this accident …My heart goes out to the families of these servicemembers and to the members of the 101st Airborne Division who bravely and proudly serve our country each and every day.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during the news conference: “We’re going to do what we always do. 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 the weeks and months and years to come.”
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said Thursday that it was “a heavy day for the Army … Thank you for your comments and thoughts and prayers for the families of our soldiers who were killed in the crash. Our hearts go out to them.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement on Twitter: “I am devastated to learn about the Army helicopter accident over Kentucky involving our brave 101st Airborne. My team is in contact with the Army and authorities on the ground. Please pray for our service members and their families as we learn more.”
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