Army team heads to Kentucky to investigate deadly helicopter crash

A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter flies near the Pentagon, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

An aircraft safety team is in Kentucky to investigate the deadly Army helicopter crash that killed nine people in the southwest part of the state, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson said Thursday. 

The team, from Fort Rucker, Ala., will look into how two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division crashed while conducting a night training flight late Wednesday, killing four troops aboard one aircraft and five in the other, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters. 

The crash is the second such deadly incident involving a Black Hawk in a month, with a helicopter crashing along an Alabama highway during a training exercise in February, killing two Tennessee National Guard pilots.  

But Ryder said he’s “not aware” of a military-wide review of helicopter safety or an Army ordered stand-down of the aircraft.  

“Anytime there’s an accident it is incredibly unfortunate and something we take incredibly seriously,” Ryder said. “Unfortunately, a lot of what we do is inherently dangerous. This is something that we’re always going to constantly be working at.” 

He later added that if the investigation team found “something systemic,” then there is a chance other Black Hawks could be grounded. 

“In the United States military, we take safety very, very seriously,” he said, adding that each aviation unit has a safety branch “whose primary role is to do exactly that — maintain constant situational awareness on safety. That is something that is baked into our culture and something that we will continue to do.” 

Earlier on Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin released a statement offering his condolences and pledging to work with Army leadership to address the incident.  

“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,” Austin said. “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.” 

Lawmakers also offered statements, including Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), whose district borders Kentucky and houses part of Fort Campbell, where the helicopters had taken off from.  

“Fort Campbell is one of the closest-knit communities we’ve ever been a part of, and we know this loss is being felt heavily,” Green said, referring to him and his wife. “Our prayers are with the families of those we lost.”

“The loved ones left behind need all of our support. These moments serve as a stark reminder that freedom is never without sacrifice,” he continued. “America is grateful for their willingness to serve, and our hearts are broken that it came with such a high cost.” 

Tags Army helicopter crash Kentucky Lloyd Austin Lloyd Austin Mark Green Pat Ryder Pat Ryder pentagon

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