A U.S. Army investigation was expected to launch Thursday after two HH60 Black Hawk helicopters went down overnight during a training exercise near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, killing all nine service members on board the aircraft.
“At approximately 10 p.m yesterday two 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) helicopters crashed in Trigg County, Kentucky,” military officials at Fort Campbell said in a statement.
The helicopters were participating in a routine training mission, according to Army officials.
The HH60 Black Hawk variant is used by the 101st Airborne Division for medical evacuations. According to an Army spokesperson at Fort Campbell, preliminary information indicates the incident occurred while the aircraft were in flight, and not while conducting medical evacuation drills.
An aircraft safety team from Fort Rucker, Alabama was deployed Thursday morning to begin the Army’s investigation into the cause of the incident. The helicopters are equipped with “black box” type data collection equipment, “and we’re hopeful that will provide quite a bit of information,” the spokesperson said.
The Army did not immediately identify the names on board the aircraft, citing ongoing family notifications. Five service members were on board one Black Hawk, and four on the second, and they included pilots, copilots, crew chiefs and medics, the spokesperson said. All were based at Fort Campbell.
“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,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement following the announcement. “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.”
The helicopters crashed in a field and no homes were damaged during the incident, Kentucky State Police told reporters.
According to an eyewitness near the site, seeing Army helicopters in the area was normal.
“We see them all the time, but tonight there were two that were coming kind of straight up over our house, headed straight northbound,” Nick Tomaszewski told WSMV. “I told my wife, ‘wow, those look really close tonight’ for whatever reason…about a minute later, they were coming across and there was a large explosion in the sky, almost look [sic] like a firework went off. And then the entire tree line lit up.”