Five American soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash during a training exercise in the eastern Mediterranean, the Pentagon said.
US European Command (EUCOM) said the helicopter was flying a ‘routine air refueling mission as part of military training’ on Friday evening when it crashed into the ocean.
All five servicemembers onboard the aircraft were killed. They were identified asChief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R Dwyer, 38, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M Barnes, 34, Staff Sgt Tanner W Grone, 26, Sgt Andrew P Southard, 27, Sgt Cade M Wolfe, 24.
The aircraft was identified as a MH-60 Blackhawk. The cause of the incident is under investigation, but Defense Department officials said the crew experienced an ‘in-flight emergency’ directly resulting in the crash.
The Defense Department stressed that the crash was unrelated to military operations in the Middle East.
‘We can definitively say that the aircraft sortie was purely related to training and there are no indications of hostile activity,’ EUCOM said.
Search and rescue efforts began immediately on Friday after the helicopter went down. The Pentagon has not confirmed if any of the servicemembers’ remains have been recovered.
‘While we continue to gather more information about this deadly crash, it is another stark reminder that the brave men and women who defend our great nation put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our country safe,’ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. ‘They represent the best of America. We will remember their service and their sacrifice.’
President Joe Biden also released a statement mourning the loss of the American airmen, who died only hours before the country celebrated Veterans Day.
‘Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who have lost a precious loved one—a piece of their soul,’ the president said. ‘Our entire nation shares their grief.’
For more stories like this, check our news page.