Three pilots killed in US Army helicopter crash

Black Hawk (L) and Apache (R) helicopters
Black Hawk (L) and Apache (R) helicopters

Three military pilots are dead and a fourth soldier injured after two US Army helicopters crashed on Thursday in Alaska while returning from a training flight.

Each helicopter carried two people, said John Pennell, a spokesperson for US Army Alaska.

It is the second such accident involving military helicopters to occur in the state this year.

Two of the soldiers died at the scene of the crash near Healy, Alaska, and a third died on the way to a hospital in Fairbanks, the army said in a statement. It said the fourth soldier was being treated at a hospital for injuries.

The names of those killed were being withheld until relatives could be notified, the army said.

Each AH-64 Apache helicopter was carrying two people at the time of the crash, John Pennell, a spokesperson for the US. Army Alaska, said earlier Thursday.

The helicopters were from the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright, based near Fairbanks.

“This is an incredible loss for these soldiers’ families, their fellow soldiers, and for the division,” Major General Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division, said in the army statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to their families, friends and loved ones, and we are making the full resources of the army available to support them.”

The army said the cause of the crash was under investigation and more details would be released when they become available.

Austin McDaniel, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers, said the state agency was not involved in the response.

In February, two soldiers were injured when an Apache helicopter rolled after taking off from Talkeetna in Alaska, the Associated Press reported. The aircraft was one of four travelling to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage from Fort Wainwright.

In March, nine soldiers were killed when two US Army Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopters crashed during a routine nighttime training exercise about 30 miles northeast of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Healy, about 10 miles north of Denali National Park and Preserve, or about 250 miles north of Anchorage, is a community of about 1,000 people located on the Parks Highway in Alaska’s interior region. It is a popular place for people to spend the night while visiting the nearby park, which is home to Denali, the continent’s tallest mountain.

Healy is also famous for being the town closest to the former bus that had been abandoned in the backcountry and was popularised by the book “Into the Wild” and the movie of the same name. The bus was removed and taken to Fairbanks in 2020.