Two soldiers died in a helicopter crash at a training area in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on April 6, 2018, at around 9:50 p.m. local time. The soldiers were part of the 101st Airborne Division’s 101stCombat Aviation Brigade and were involved in routine training when the AH-64E Apache helicopter crashed. No other injuries or fatalities were reported.
Army Identifies Deceased Soldiers from 101st Airborne Division
The victims were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Connolly, 37, and Warrant Officer James Casadona, 28. Connolly was with the Army since 2001 and worked as an instructor pilot. He received a variety of decorations, including Army Achievement, Army Superior Unit Award and two Air Medals. Casadona piloted for the 101st Aviation Brigade and joined the Army in 2012.
“This is a day of sadness for Fort Campbell and the 101stAirborne,” said Brig. Gen. Todd Royar, acting senior commander of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families during this difficult time.”
Three Military Air Crashes in a Week Kill Seven
Only days before Connolly and Casadona died, five other service members died in air accidents. Those include the crash of a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter, near El Centro, California, on April 3. Four Marines died in that crash. The victims of the crash were identified as:
- Capt. Samuel A. Schultz, 28,
- First Lt. Samuel D. Phillips, 27,
- Gunnery Sgt. Derik R. Holley, 33, and
- Lance Corp. Taylor J. Conrad, 24.
On April 4 an F-16 Fighting Falcon with the world renowned Air Force Thunderbirds crashed in Nevada at Nellis Air Force Base, killing the pilot, Maj. Stephen Del Bagno. The plane was performing a routine demonstration when it crashed. Connolly and Casadona became the sixth and seventh casualties of military air crashes in less than a week.
Meanwhile, in March seven service members in Iraq died when the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter carrying them crashed. The cause of that crash is under investigation but there are no indications it was taken down by enemy fire. Early reports speculate the helicopter could have suffered a mechanical malfunction or hit a power line. The Pave Hawk crashed shortly after takeoff near the town of Qaim. Pave Hawks are typically used for medical evacuations and pararescue operations.
Report Suggests Increase in Military Aviation Accidents
A report by the Military Times suggests that the death toll for aviation accidents is increasing, with 133 troops killed in five years. A six-month investigation into military aviation accidents found that from 2013 to 2017, the number of accidents involving manned bomber, helicopter, fighter, and/or cargo warplanes rose by almost 40 percent, from 656 accidents in a year to 909 accidents. Some aircraft have had the number of accidents nearly double in the same period.
The Military Times blames the trend on budget cuts in 2013, increasing warplane deployment, and cuts to flight-training hours given to pilots.
“We stopped training, for months,” said former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “Of course, all of that affected readiness. It’s had an impact on every part of our defense enterprise. And that means, surely, accidents.”
Fort Campbell has been the site of tragedy before. In 1988, 17 soldiers died during a nighttime training mission when two Blackhawks collided midair.
Victims of Kentucky Military Helicopter Crash Remembered
Casadona graduated from New Hampton school. In a written statement, school officials remembered him as a wonderful man who was well-loved and respected by those around him.
“The Destiny Brigade has suffered a great tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the deceased,” said Col. Craig Alia, commander of the 101stCombat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. “This is an unfortunate event, and we are saddened by the loss of our fellow Soldiers. We ask that everyone respect the privacy of the families as they grieve the loss of their loved ones.”
Military Aircraft Disaster Lawyers
The courageous men and women who serve in the United States military should never face unnecessary the risk due to mechanical failures in their aircraft. The recent air accidents and fatalities are a stark reminder of the risks our service members face at home and overseas. Risks that are often entirely preventable.
Aviation attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman are proud to have represented families who lost their loved ones protecting our country or training to do so. If you or a loved one has suffered harm in a military aircraft accident, contact us to discuss your situation. We can explain your rights to you and help you determine your best options.