National Guard Chopper crash victims identified

March 10 (UPI) -- Authorities released the identities Sunday of two National Guard members and a U.S. Border Patrol agent killed in a helicopter crash near the U.S.-Mexico border last week.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, 28, of Rensselaer, New York, the pilot, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, of Schenectady, a New York state trooper, died in the crash, the National Guard Bureau said. The identity of the injured soldier was not released.

The National Guard Lakota UH-72 helicopter crashed just before 4 p.m. local time Friday along the border near Rio Grande City, Texas, while on a routine training mission, the Department of Defense's Joint Task Force North said. A third National Guardsman was injured in the crash, officials said, but the identity of that soldier was not released.

The group had been "providing monitoring and detecting capabilities along that sector of the border," said Maj. Ryan Wierzbicki, a spokesman for the task force.

Border Patrol Agent Chris Luna also died in the crash, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

"Every single day, our Border Patrol Agents place themselves in harm's way so that the rest of us can be safe and secure," Mayorkas said Sunday. "My thoughts, and the deepest condolences of our Department, are with Agent Luna's family, loved ones and colleagues, and with those of the National Guardsmen who lost their lives."

The cause of the crash is under investigation, officials said.

The chopper was assigned to the federal Southwest border support mission, officials said. Army investigators arrived at the site over the weekend to search the wreckage for the helicopter's black box. The Lakota UH-72 is a light-duty National Guard workhorse for the service.

Saturday, President Joe Biden honored those who were killed, saying in a statement, "Their sacrifice will never be forgotten."

"These brave Americans dedicated their lives to protecting our nation," Biden said. "They signed up knowing the risks and believing in the mission of serving their fellow Americans by keeping our nation safe. Our gratitude is profound, and their sacrifice will never be forgotten."

The president added, "We extend our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones, as well as their colleagues in the National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol. We pray for the injured Guardsman's swift recovery."