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Three National Guard pilots killed in Idaho Black Hawk crash were flying in bad weather

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 3, 2021

WASHINGTON — An Idaho National Guard helicopter was flying in bad weather over mountainous terrain when it crashed, killing three soldiers aboard, Guard officials said Wednesday.

The Idaho Army National Guard suspended flight operations indefinitely following the UH-60 Black Hawk crash just outside of Boise about 8 p.m. local time Tuesday, said Army Lt. Col. Nicole Washington, who commands the Idaho Guard’s 1st Battalion, 183rd Aviation Regiment. She said all three soldiers aboard the Black Hawk were experienced pilots who had often conducted similar routine training flights in that area of the crash, just south of Lucky Peak State Park, west of Boise.

The names of the pilots killed were being withheld until 24 hours after family notification per Pentagon policy, officials said.

“This is a tremendous loss to the Idaho National Guard and our community,” said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, the Idaho Guard’s top general. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones as we work through this tragedy.”

It was not clear what caused the crash Tuesday or if the bad weather — including snow — played a part, Washington said. The crew made no mayday or emergency calls before the helicopter went down, she said.

A formal investigation into the incident was expected to be launched Thursday when Army safety investigators were to arrive from Fort Rucker, Ala.

Local aviation officials lost contact with the aircraft about 7:45 p.m., after they radioed they were traveling back to the base, said Col. Christopher Burt, the Idaho Guard’s state aviation officer.

At about 8 p.m., officials launched emergency recovery efforts, including air and ground search and rescue crews after they were notified the helicopter's emergency signal had been activated, he said. The downed helicopter and its crew were located just after midnight, he said.

National Guard and active-duty troops were working Wednesday to recover the remains of the pilots, Burt said.

The Tuesday night crash was the second deadly Black Hawk crash this year in the United States. Three New York Army National Guard pilots were killed Jan. 20, when their UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter crashed near Rochester, N.Y., during a night-flying exercise.

A cause of that crash has not yet been determined and an investigation is ongoing, an Army official said Wednesday. Crash investigations can take months to complete, officials have said.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial were killed in that crash. They were all pilots with C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion based at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport, according to the New York Guard. All three were Afghanistan war veterans, according to the Army.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC