Emergency responders are seen near a site where two Black Hawk helicopters crashed Wednesday night during a routine training mission in Trigg County, in southwestern Kentucky, on March 30, 2023.

Emergency responders are seen near a site where two Black Hawk helicopters crashed Wednesday night during a routine training mission in Trigg County, in southwestern Kentucky, on March 30, 2023. (Brandon Smith/AP)

Nine Army soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed late Wednesday during a nighttime training operation in southern Kentucky, military authorities said.

The crash occurred at about 10 p.m. in Cadiz, Ky., not far from Fort Campbell, where the helicopters were based. The HH60 Black Hawks went down during a nighttime medical training mission, a service spokesman said.

There were no survivors.

Fort Campbell is located about 50 miles northwest of downtown Nashville on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and Cadiz is 25 miles northwest of the base in southwestern Kentucky. The helicopters belonged to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, which is headquartered at the base.

(Noga Ami-rav/Stars and Stripes)

Officials at the base said it is typical to have nine people aboard two choppers for such a training mission. Five were aboard one of the helicopters, and four were on the other when the crash occurred.

“I would like to express our deepest sympathies to the families of our fallen soldiers,” Army Brig. Gen. John Lubas, deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said Thursday during a news conference. “This is a truly tragic loss.”

Lubas said an investigation into the crash is underway and declined to say what might have caused the helicopters to crash.

The deputy commander did say the medical evacuation helicopters were flying in a multi-ship formation with night-vision goggles when the crash occurred. He also said the helicopters went down in an open field not far from civilian homes, but no civilians were hurt.

“Last night, we lost nine service members in an accident during a routine training mission in Kentucky,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “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.”

“Today is a tough and tragic day for Kentucky, Fort Campbell and for the 101st,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday at the base. “We are going to wrap our arms around these families [of the victims]. We are going to be there with them — not just for the days, but for the weeks and the months and the years to come.”

Beshear said he spoke to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Lee expressed similar condolences for the families of the victims.

“There are no state lines when it comes to taking care of these families,” Beshear added.

The crash Wednesday was the second one involving a Black Hawk helicopter in a little more than a month. On Feb. 15, two veteran Tennessee Army National Guard pilots were killed when the UH-60 Black Hawk that they were flying crashed during a training flight near Huntsville, Ala.

The two pilots, who were assigned to a helicopter battalion at Berry Field Air National Guard Base in Nashville, had collective experience of almost 30 years in the Army. That crash is still under investigation.

The Black Hawk has been in service with the Army since 1979 and is one of the service’s most popular helicopters. About 5,000 of the four-blade, twin-engine utility helicopters — named after Native American war leader Black Hawk — have been built by Sikorsky.

There are several variants and derivatives of the Black Hawk. The UH-60 is the main version, but Sikorsky also produces the HH-60, the SH-60 Seahawk and MH-60 Jayhawk. The Seahawk is a marine utility helicopter used by the Navy, and the Jayhawk is a recovery aircraft used by the Coast Guard.

Built in 1941, Fort Campbell covers more than 105,000 acres and is home to a number of Army garrisons, including the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, 5th Special Forces Group, 52nd Ordnance Group and the NCO Academy. It’s also home to the 101st Airborne Divison’s “Screaming Eagles” parachute demonstration team.

The Army base is named for Union Army Brig. Gen. William Bowen Campbell, who was also the 14th governor of Tennessee and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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