The Army is still working to determine what went wrong when a young soldier fell to his death during an Idaho Army National Guard helicopter hoist accident in December, according to an Idaho Guard spokesperson.

Pvt. Aaron Brant Meese, an 18-year-old native of Nampa, Idaho, was on holiday block leave from his infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, when he died, according to installation spokesperson Ben Garrett. A member of Meese’s family did not respond to an email from Army Times.

Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Borders, a spokesperson for the Idaho Guard, confirmed the “unfortunat[e]” incident and added in an emailed statement that a safety investigation is complete and a workplace investigation remains in progress.

Once both investigations are finalized, he explained, “the unit will take appropriate action based on the results of that [Army Regulation 15-6] investigation, in addition to [implementing] recommendations made by the Safety Investigation Board.”

While at home in Idaho, Meese was injured and stranded during a hike in the rugged Owyhee Mountains near Jump Creek Falls on Dec. 27, according to a preliminary report from the Army Combat Readiness Center. CRC investigates all fatal Army mishaps.

A mountain search from Owyhee County located him, the report said, but the team had to request helicopter support from the Idaho Guard to evacuate him to a nearby ambulance transfer point.

Because of the difficult terrain, the Guardsmen who responded in a UH-60L Black Hawk lowered a sked stretcher to hoist him up to the aircraft.

But Meese didn’t make it.

“During the hoist operation, the Soldier fell from the sked as it was ascending to the aircraft,” the report said. It’s not clear why or how Meese fell from the stretcher, but rescuers were able to “recover” him and he was “re-hoisted successfully onto the aircraft.”

The Black Hawk took the unresponsive soldier to the ambulance point where emergency responders pronounced him dead.

The CRC release noted that Meese is the first soldier to die since 2017 in a “flight-related hoist mishap.”

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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