Arizona soldier, 4 others dead after military helicopter crash overseas
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) — A U.S. Army Special Operations helicopter carrying five soldiers crashed Friday into the Mediterranean Sea. Of the five lives lost, one of them, Sgt. Andrew P. Southard was from Apache Junction, Arizona.
The Army’s public affairs office says there is no indication an attack caused the crash. Instead, the crew was training on refueling aircraft mid-flight when “an in-flight emergency” caused the crash, the Army said. The Army’s Combat Readiness Center is investigating the crash.
The names of all five soldiers who lost their lives are:
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen R. Dwyer, 38, of Clarksville, Tennessee
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane M. Barnes, 34, of Sacramento, California
- Staff Sgt. Tanner W. Grone, 26, of Gorham, New Hampshire
- Sgt. Andrew P. Southard, 27, of Apache Junction, Arizona
- Sgt. Cade M. Wolfe, 24, of Mankato, Minnesota.
Monday afternoon, Apache Junction Mayor Chip Wilson released the following statement: “On behalf of our city council, the city of Apache Junction sends its condolences to the family of Sgt. Andrew Southard, who we have been informed, was one of the five servicepeople killed this weekend in a training exercise over the Mediterranean Sea and who is from our community, having attended Cactus Canyon Junior High and Apache Junction High School. Our thoughts are with the Southard family at this difficult time.”
The military first announced the crash on Saturday and said that the cause is under investigation, but there are no indications of any hostile activity involved. It said on Sunday that “search and rescue efforts began immediately, including nearby U.S. military aircraft and ships.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that “we mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. service members during a training accident in the Mediterranean Sea early Saturday morning.”
“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,” he said.
European Command said that out of respect for the families of the service members and in line with Department of Defense policy, the identities of the crew members are being withheld for 24 hours until the families of those killed have been notified.
It wasn’t immediately clear which military service the aircraft belonged to. The Air Force has sent additional squadrons to the region, and the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, which has an array of aircraft on board, has also been operating in the eastern Mediterranean.
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