SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Army identified on Saturday the three soldiers who were killed when two helicopters collided in Alaska while returning from a training mission.
The helicopters were headed to Fort Wainwright from a mission in the Donnelly Training Area when they crashed at 1:39 p.m. Thursday, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Healy.
The U.S. Army announced Friday that it has grounded aviation units for training after 12 soldiers died within the last month in helicopter crashes in Alaska and Kentucky.
“The move grounds all Army aviators, except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training,” the Army said in a statement.
Killed in Thursday’s crash were Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo, 39, of Oneonta, New York; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle D. McKenna, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart Duane Wayment, 32, of North Logan, Utah.
A fourth soldier was injured and was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and was listed in stable condition. He was not identified Saturday.
“The battalion is devastated and mourning the loss of three of our best,” said Lt. Col. Matthew C. Carlsen, the 1-25th AB commander. Their loss can’t be compared to the suffering felt by the soldiers’ families, he said.
“The entire team has come together to focus our thoughts, prayers, and actions to provide and sustain them with whatever comfort and support they need at this time, and I promise that this will continue long into the future,” he said.
A Safety Investigation Team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, based at Fort Novosel, Alabama, is leading the safety investigation, officials said in an email.
Department of Defense instructions and Army regulations prohibit the investigators from releasing any information to the public concerning the causes, analysis or internal recommendations, the statement said.
“The loss of these Soldiers is devastating and is being felt by family, friends and military communities across Alaska,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division. “The families of Fort Wainwright and 1-25 are as strong a team as I’ve ever seen. Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of the fallen.”