Tactical

Army investigators confirm collision led to double Black Hawk crash

Two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that crashed and killed nine soldiers near Fort Campbell, Kentucky on March 29 collided in mid-air before going down, according to a preliminary report from the Army’s aviation investigation authority released April 11.

“While conducting night training in a military operations area/special use airspace, two HH-60 aircraft collided midair,” the report from the Army Combat Readiness Center concluded. The Alabama-based command probes all of the service’s fatal accidents, and its investigators recovered the helicopters’ flight data recorders last week.

The center’s officials are continuing their inquiry into the crash, according to the report. It’s not yet clear whether the collision occurred due to pilot error, maintenance failures, or other potential causes.

The two medical evacuation helicopters crashed around 9:40 p.m. local time in an open field across from a residential area of Trigg County, Kentucky, the report and officials stated. The crews were practicing night missions and were wearing night-vision goggles during the exercise.

The aircraft and the fallen troops belonged to the 101st Airborne Division’s combat aviation brigade.

The soldiers killed in the crash include:

  • Warrant Officer Jeffery Barnes, 33, of Milton, Fla.;
  • Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23, of Austin, Texas, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant;
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza, 36, of Jackson, Mo., who was posthumously promoted to chief warrant officer 3;
  • Sgt. Isaac J. Gayo, 27, of Los Angeles, Calif.;
  • Staff Sgt. Joshua C. Gore, 25, of Morehead City, N.C.;
  • Warrant Officer Aaron Healy, 32, of Cape Coral, Fla., who was posthumously promoted to chief warrant officer 2;
  • Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, 30, of Mountain Brook, Ala.;
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32, of Rolla, Mo.;
  • Sgt. David Solinas Jr, 23, of Oradell, N.J.

In a statement released on March 31, division commander Maj. Gen. J.P. McGee mourned the community’s loss and said it “will reverberate through our formations for years to come.”

The Associated Press and Military Times Deputy Editor Leo Shane III contributed to this report.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master’s thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood’s WWII movies.

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