UPDATE: Details released regarding fatal Idaho National Guard helicopter crash
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BOISE — The Idaho National Guard is working to recover the bodies of three guardsmen who died in a helicopter crash Tuesday night.
The Idaho National Guard held a news conference Wednesday morning at Gowen Field and gave further details about the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash.
“The sudden and tragic loss of three of our fellow guardsmen is extremely heartbreaking to every member of the Idaho National Guard Family,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and commander of the Idaho National Guard. “I have received numerous messages of condolence from many people here in Idaho and throughout the nation. All of your thoughts, prayers and support are sincerely appreciated and much needed.”
Garshak said poor weather and mountainous terrain in an area 15 miles southwest of Boise was making it difficult for search teams to reach the crash site, but things are moving forward.
The crash itself happened sometime around 8 p.m. The pilots took off at 6:50 p.m. and were in contact with flight operations until 7:45 p.m. The aircraft had just left the last landing zone and were en route back to Boise.
Shortly after 8 p.m., the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force base in Florida contacted the Idaho National Guard and informed them that the Black Hawks Emergency Transmitter Locator was active. In the moments leading up to the crash, there were no indications of an emergency, and local flight operations did not receive any signals from the aircraft.
The grid placed the helicopter in the Three Point Mountain area south of Lucky Peak.
“It leaves a tremendous, indescribable void in our aviation community.”
Another aircraft in the area tried to find the downed helicopter, but as the weather deteriorated, it forced the aircrew to return to Boise. Idaho Mountain Rescue was called in around 11 p.m., and the weather improved enough for the National Guard to launch another search crew. At 12:15 p.m., crews located the helicopter and the remains of the missing pilots.
“It leaves a tremendous, indescribable void in our aviation community,” said Lt. Col. Nicole Washington, battalion commander of the pilots. “We are very close-knit. They will be missed, and there will be no way we’re able to replace or fill the void they left.
Washington said the most senior pilots onboard were instructors for the Idaho National Guard. All had thousands of hours of flight experience.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little also attended the news conference, saying “these are tough times” for the people of Idaho and National Guard members.
“Remember, their No. 1 goal is to defend this country,” Little said. “I just ask everyone to think about them. Everyone that serves, particularly the Idaho National Guard, and what they do every day … also their families and their neighbors and how critical it is we continue to show support for them.”
Flight operations for the Idaho National Guard are suspended while the investigation is ongoing and it’s deemed safe to fly. The Guard expects United States’ Army aviation investigators will arrive in Idaho on Thursday afternoon.
The cause of the crash has not yet determined, but Washington did say there was bad weather at the time of the crash.
The National Guard expects to spend Wednesday with the Elmore County Sheriff Office’s search and rescue team recovering the fallen aircrew. The names of the pilots have not been released. The U.S. military typically awaits 24 hours after families are notified to release that information to the public.