RFORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky (AP) — Nine people were killed in a crash involving two Army Blackhawk medical evacuation helicopters conducting night training in Kentucky, Army officials said Thursday.
Fort Campbell spokeswoman Nondice Thurman said the death occurred Wednesday night during a routine training mission in southwestern Kentucky.
Two of his HH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, part of the 101st Airborne Division, crashed around 10 p.m., according to a Fort Campbell statement. Wednesday in Trigg County, Kentucky. The 101st Paratroopers confirmed the crash approximately 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Fort Campbell. The crash is under investigation. Brigadier General John Rubas, deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said the helicopter crashed into a field near a residential area and there were no injuries on the ground. Rubas said five of his people were on board one helicopter, and the other four were on board.
At a Thursday morning press conference, the governor of Kentucky said. Andy Beshear said the state will do everything it can to support the families of those killed.
“We’re going to do what we always do. We’re going to hold these families and be with them not just for days, but for weeks, months, years,” Beshear said.
Rubas said the cause of the crash was unknown. He said an investigative team from Fort Tracker, Alabama, was heading to the crash site. “This is a training move forward, especially when they fly multiple ships, two ships, at night under night vision goggles,” Lubas said.
He said authorities believe the accident “occurred during the flight and not during an intentional medical evacuation drill.”
The helicopter has something similar to the black his box on airliners, which records the performance of the aircraft in flight and is used by investigators to analyze crashes.
“I hope this gives us a lot of information about what happened,” Rubas said.
Black Hawk helicopters are important workhorses for the U.S. Army, used in security, transportation, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and other missions. Helicopters are familiar to many from his 2001 film Black Hawk Down, which depicts the fierce fighting in Somalia eight years ago. Blackhawks were often seen over Iraq and Afghanistan during combat missions during the war, and are also used by the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Fort Campbell is about 60 miles northwest of Nashville, near the Tennessee border, and the crash occurred in Trigg County, Caddis Township, Kentucky.
Nick Tomaszewski, who lives about a mile from the crash site, said he saw two of his helicopters flying over his home shortly before the crash.
“For some reason, his wife and I were sitting there last night watching the rear deck. Shortly after the helicopter flew back in, “I saw fireworks going up in the sky.”
“All the lights on her helicopter went out. They just seemed to inflate and saw a huge glow, like a fireball,” Tomaszewski said.
Flyovers for training exercises take place almost every day, and helicopters usually fly low, but not close, he said.
“It was two people back to back. We usually see another one a few minutes later, but last night I just saw the two flying together,” he said.