BOISE, Idaho — Three Idaho Army National Guard personnel were killed after their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed south of Lucky Peak near Boise shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday. All three personnel aboard were "extremely experienced" pilots with the Idaho Army National Guard participating in a routine training flight.
“This is a tremendous loss to the Idaho National Guard and our community,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and commander of the Idaho National Guard. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones as we work through this tragedy.”
I’m shocked & saddened to learn of the deaths of 3 helicopter pilots w/ the @IDNationalGuard in a training exercise last night. Mine & Vicki’s prayers are w/ their families & all ID National Guardsmen during this painful time & thank them for their service to Idaho & the nation. https://t.co/OBP4JnlkJj— Jim Risch (@SenatorRisch) February 3, 2021
Col. Christopher Burt, the Idaho Army National Guard’s state aviation officer, confirmed the aircraft was last contacted at 7:45 p.m. Once the Emergency Transmitter Locator device aboard the aircraft was activated shortly after 8 p.m., his team immediately initiated emergency aircraft recovery procedures, which included air and ground search and rescue crews.
At approximately 12:15 a.m. Wednesday morning, crews located the aircraft and personnel via snow mobiles. The cause of the accident is unknown and an investigation will begin promptly.
Officials mentioned during a news conference that weather impacted search efforts, but still have not determined what caused the crash. During their last contact at around 7:45 p.m., the pilots indicated they were wrapping up their training and heading back to Boise.
Lt. Col. Nicole Washington said all three pilots were wearing night-vision goggles and the area of the crash is a location they train in frequently. She mentioned there was fog and snow at the time of the crash, but weather has not been determined to be what caused the crash.
There was another aircraft out training at the same time in a different location. They were notified of the potential crash and tried three times to fly through the area and find the helicopter. Officials say the snow was heavy and they had fuel constraints, so they had to fly back to Boise.
All three pilots killed in the crash had several years of experience. They were described as "extremely experienced" and one was "the instructor pilot of instructor pilots."
Names of the deceased are being withheld until after next of kin have been notified. Governor Brad Little has ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff in their honor.
"Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the loss of three brave and talented pilots killed during service to our state and nation. Their tragic deaths leave an emptiness in the lives of their families and loved ones, the entire National Guard community, and all of us. Our women and men in the Idaho National Guard bravely take on the inherent dangers of their work to serve the people of Idaho and the United States whenever called upon. As Idahoans, let's quiet ourselves and reflect on their courage and sacrifice. Please join me in prayer for the heroes we lost and seek to comfort all the lives they touched,” Governor Little said in a statement.
The half-staff directive will be in place immediately and will remain until the day after the final memorial service.
I have ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of the three Idaho Army National Guard pilots killed in a helicopter crash near Boise Tuesday night. Please join me in prayer for the heroes we lost and seek to comfort all the lives they touched. pic.twitter.com/1eGFOgylr5— Brad Little (@GovernorLittle) February 3, 2021
As of right now, all Idaho National Guard flying operations are ceased until officials can determine the aircraft and fuel were not the cause of the crash.