MENDON, N.Y. — The U.S. Army will lead the investigation into a helicopter crash that killed three National Guard members on a training exercise, authorities said Thursday after the remains of the troops were recovered from the rural upstate New York crash site.
Army aviation safety investigators were expected on scene by Friday morning, Monroe County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Michael Fowler said at a news conference.
The UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter crashed in a farmer’s field in rural Mendon, south of Rochester, around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. There were no survivors.
Witnesses who called 911 reported hearing the sounds of an engine sputtering and said the helicopter was flying very low.
Photos from the scene showed the wreckage in flames on a snow-covered field.
On Thursday, first responders and residents lined roadways as the victims were driven from the crash site to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office in Brighton, escorted by police and fire vehicles. The victims’ names were not released.
Community members “came out of their homes, they stood on the side of the road with flags, saluting,” said Fowler, who retired from the National Guard in May after 30 years. “It was just a very touching and honorable time for this unfortunate event.”
He said local authorities had spent the day identifying and roping off the crash site with the use of a drone and police canine.
The helicopter flew out of the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport, and was assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion, according to Eric Durr, the public affairs director of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
The unit, with about 80 members, is a medical evacuation unit whose mission is to pick up casualties on the battlefield and transport them to military medical facilities, Durr said.
About half the unit spent most of 2019 deployed in Afghanistan.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed flags on state buildings be flown at half-staff on Thursday to pay tribute to the National Guard members.