A helicopter crash involving a military aircraft in Iraq killed seven American service members, the Pentagon has confirmed. The crew was on a troop transport mission in Iraq when the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter they were in crashed. Investigators are looking into the potential causes of the fatal military helicopter crash, but early reports indicate the aircraft may have struck a power line or suffered a mechanical malfunction. Investigators will also look into aircraft maintenance records and possible issues with the helicopter itself to determine the likely cause of the accident. So far, there is no indication the tragedy was caused by enemy fire.
Seven U.S. Service Members Died in Pave Hawk Crash
All seven service members who were aboard the helicopter died in the March 15th tragedy. Killed in the crash were:
- Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack, NY;
- Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, NY;
- Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, NY;
- Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, FL;
- Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, FL;
- Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, NY; and
- Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, CO
Raguso and Zanetis were both reportedly New York firefighters, deployed with the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing.
“This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations,” said Brig. General Jonathan Braga, director of operations of the Combined Joint Task Force in a statement. “We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today.”
Helicopter Crashed Near Qaim, Iraq
The crash occurred near the town of Qaim in Iraq, where an American military base serves as a resupply and logistics center. Reports indicate the helicopter crashed soon after it took off. Unnamed sources have suggested that either a mechanical malfunction may have caused the aviation accident or that the helicopter ran into a power line, although the investigation is still in its early stages.
The Pave Hawk that crashed is derived from the Black Hawk helicopter and is used by the Air Force primarily for medical evacuations and Special Operations pararescue operations.
Family and Friends Mourn Victims of the Iraq Helicopter Crash
Shortly after news of the crash spread, tributes came in for the seven victims.
Christopher Raguso became a firefighter in 2005 and was recognized six times for bravery. A Facebook post remembered him as a man who was “always there to help anyone with anything, he would never say no.” According to one report, Raguso died one day after his 39th birthday.
An organization called the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up to help military members and first responders, is now raising funds to pay off Raguso’s mortgage. A page at Crowdrise has been set up to raise $100,000 towards that goal
Christopher Zanetis was a marshal in New York’s Bureau of Fire Investigation and was also recognized for his bravery. During an unpaid leave from the fire department, Zanetis began his law career, graduating from Stanford Law School.
“He loved everyone and everyone loved him,” Zanetis’ father said.
Dashan Briggs’ former football coach remembered Briggs as a true leader and said he had great intelligence.
William Posch had been with the Air Force for 18 years and took part in 140 combat rescues. He also helped with rescue operations following Hurricane Harvey and received an Air Force Commendation Medal with Valor.
Carl Enis was with the Air Force for eight years and received an Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster.
In a statement issued shortly after the crash, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called the tragedy devastating and noted that the deaths are a reminder of the sacrifice made by members of the military.
Four of the victims were with the 106th Rescue Wing, which conducts rescue operations both domestically and overseas.
“You can’t help but be crushed,” said Capt. Michael O’Hagen, public information officer for the 106th Rescue Wing. “It’s a feeling of shock.”
Service Members at Risk of Aircraft Disaster Even in the U.S.
Unfortunately, this is not the only aircraft disaster involving service members in the past 12 months. On July 10, 2017, a Marine Corps KC-130 crashed in Leflore County, Mississippi, killing everyone on board. In all, 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman died in the tragedy. The KC-130 was carrying personnel and equipment to El Centro, California. That crash was the deadliest aircraft disaster for the Marine Corps in more than a decade.
Military Aircraft Disaster Lawyers
The brave service members of the United States risk their lives as they protect our country. Though they know the risks involved, they should never be put at risk of death due to aircraft mechanical failures due to design issues or negligent aircraft maintenance. Too many service members have lost their lives due to preventable aircraft accidents.
At Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, we are honored to have represented the families of some of the people who gave their lives protecting our country. If you or a loved one has been harmed in a military aircraft crash, contact us to discuss your options.