HelicopterThe Black Hawk helicopter in which six men died when it crashed Monday was lowering a Humvee vehicle to the field exercise site, according to a witness on the second helicopter that crashed.
Investigators study the site
where two aircraft
St. Louis School prays for pilot, family
Identities of those killed or injured
By Mary Adamski
and Gregg K. Kakesako
Sgt. 1st Class Leslie E. Frye II said he saw the other helicopter when both aircraft were about 150 feet in the air, inbound to land at the Kahuku site. "I was in a seat toward the front, on the side we hit. It felt like it rotated a couple times. It went straight on down."
Frye was treated for spinal and neck injuries and released yesterday from Tripler Army Medical Center. "I feel very fortunate. Not too many people walk away from helicopter crashes," Frye said.
Military aviation safety investigators were back at the Kahuku Military Training Area today trying to determine the cause of the twin crashes in what is probably the Army's worst training accident here.
Officials from the U.S. Army Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Ala., arrived last night and will lead the investigation.
The Pentagon said the six men who were killed were in one helicopter. Four belonged to the 25th Infantry Division's (Light) 25th Aviation Regiment.
Two memorial services will be held Friday. The Aviation Regiment will hold its services at 9 a.m. at Schofield's main post chapel. At 11 a.m., a memorial service sponsored by the division's artillery battalion will be held.
The UH-60 Black Hawks carrying a total of 17 people crashed about 200 yards apart. One Black Hawk landed on a dirt road, losing its tail rotor.
The other appeared to have cut a swath through bushes and trees, landing on its side, its main rotor blade bent. It is believed that this was the Black Hawk which carried the six soldiers who were killed.
Army accident photos show that both Black Hawks were destroyed.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, Pentagon spokesman, said the two Black Hawks "somehow came in contact" with each other, indicating some sort of collision.
He said the two were not in the air at the same time, which also seemed to indicate that one was taking off and the other attempting a landing on a landing zone that had been deluged with rain throughout the day. The accident occurred about 7:40 p.m.
Qigley said the exercise was held to help the unit practice "the ability to move soldiers around under battlefield conditions."
Both pilots were reported to be wearing night vision goggles.
He said that there were 23 helicopters used during the exercise, which ends Friday.
Conditions in the rugged remote training area were described as muddy.
Sgt. Frye said the other helicopter appeared to be over the landing zone just before the crash.
He said "With night vision goggles on, everything looks different. The aircraft that was carrying a Humvee, the Humvee swung.
"We had a cargo net below us ... it may have assisted in keeping us somewhat stable coming down." He said the aircraft he was in landed on its left side, "a tangled mess of metal.
"We couldn't extract (people) out of the bottom. We had to get out of the topside. The inside of the aircraft was all torn up. The seats are designed to break away."
He said the worst injured in his group were Pfc. Michael A. Welch, with fractures of the neck and leg, Spec. Benjamin M. Brown III, also with a broken leg, and Pvt. Sergio Rodriguez-Trujillo, with an ankle fracture. All were still hospitalized.
Frye said the accident occurred when "we were seven days into a 10-day field problem." About 80 personnel were already on the ground and six aircraft had already landed.
"Charley Company 1-27 was on the scene. They had the ground tactical plan to secure it of enemy activity."
After the crash, "the infantry immediately turned into a rescue unit. I saw Sgt. Lesh from Charley Company evacuate four personnel, one after another, and Sgt. Chapman was doing rescue work."
Frye said he was one of the last to be flown out in the medical evacuation helicopters, and his injuries were not serious enough to warrant hospitalization. "Right now, I'm still just licking my wounds. I think I'll take a day off."
The injured infantry soldiers were members of the 27th Infantry Regiment, known as the "Wolfhounds."
The soldiers were participating in an annual exercise known as Lightning Thrust Warrior, which was preparing one of the 25th Division's three infantry brigades for a beefed up training session at Fort Polk, La., later this year.
Army officials suspended the aviation portion of the exercise for 24 hours.
This is the fourth UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash involving fatalities in the last four years. Two crashed at Fort Campbell, Ky., one in 1996 and the other in 1999.
Another Black Hawk crashed on a Bahamian island during a maintenance flight.
The last Army helicopter crash with fatalities was in March 1996, when an AH-1F Cobra reported engine trouble and crashed, killing both pilots.
Chief Warrant Officer George P. Perry of Kapolei, a helicopter pilot and one of six who died in Monday's Army helicopter accident, graduated from St. Louis School in 1977.
St. Louis School prays
for Army pilots family
His 42nd birthday would have been Feb. 22.
An outstanding middle linebacker on the St. Louis football team, he later played junior college football on the mainland and eventually graduated from the University of Hawaii, said his brother Greg.
St. Louis paused for a moment of prayer yesterday after his death was announced on the school public address system.
A son, Michael, is an eighth-grader at St. Louis.
"We are all praying for the family," said Father Allen DeLong, St. Louis president. Perry's father and grandfather also graduated from St. Louis.
Perry's commander, Lt. Col. Paul Disney, said he and Perry developed a close friendship on the job -- Perry was a battalion safety officer who reported daily to Disney -- which carried over onto the basketball court. "He loved all sports: football, basketball, weightlifting," Disney said. "He was a great athlete."
He was also a great family man who spent his time off with his family, Disney said. He enjoyed singing karaoke, particularly with his wife, Lovie, whose voice Disney described as exceptional. "I think she had a better voice, but he certainly wasn't bashful," he said.
Born in San Francisco, Perry moved to Hawaii with his family at an early age.
Perry had been on active duty for about 17 years. His Army career included a recent Korean tour, and he had been back in Hawaii about a year, Greg Perry said.
Disney said that Perry performed risk assessment for the battalion. "He would make sure we had all the proper control measures to minimize risk," he said. Perry himself was not a risk taker, Disney added.
Perry told Disney he was confident the air crews had been properly briefed about Monday's exercise. Pilots had done a rehearsal on a scale model on the ground. "We actually have the pilots walk through as if they were flying," Disney said.
"It was so well briefed and so well rehearsed, and we didn't think there would be any risk at all," he said.
Perry is survived by wife Lovie, son Daniel, brothers Greg and Geoffrey, and parents Lawrence and Beverly. Services are pending.
Five soldiers died along with George P. Perry and 11 were injured in the crashes of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters Monday.
The identities of those killed or injured
KILLEDMaj. Robert L. Olson, a native of Minnesota. He was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, and was assigned as the battalion operations officer.
Chief Warrant Officer Two Gregory I. Montgomery, a California native, was also assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, as a pilot.
Sgt. Thomas E. Barber, a UH-60 crew member, assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, was a native of Champlin, Minn.
Spec. Bob D. MacDonald, an Alta Loma, Calif., native who was assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, as a UH-60 crew member.
Spec. Rafael Olvera-Rodriguez, an El Paso, Texas, native, was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Service Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, as a field artillery crewman.
INJUREDSgt. Justin P. Kragenbrink, a native of Colorado and a UH-60 Black Hawk crewman, is listed in stable condition at Tripler Army Medical Center.
Pfc. Michael A. Welch, a Kenner, La., native, a mortarman with 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, is listed in stable condition at Tripler.
Spec. Benjamin M. Brown III, a native of Franklinton, N.C., a mortarman with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, is reported in stable condition at Tripler.
Pvt. Sergio Rodriguez-Trujillo, a native of Cuba, a mortarman with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, is listed in stable condition at Queen's Medical Center.
Pfc. Denell L. Simmons, from Lampasas, Texas, an infantryman assigned to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, was treated and released from Tripler.
Spec. Derrick K. Burke, a native of Ucon, Idaho, a UH-60 crew member assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, was treated and released.
Sgt. Matthew S. Eshelman, a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, an infantryman in 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, was treated and released.
Sgt. Juan C. Lopez-Rios, a native of Lompoc, Calif., a mortarman in 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, was treated and released from Tripler.
Sgt. 1st Class Leslie E. Frye II, a native of California, assigned as an infantryman to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, was treated and released.
Chief Warrant Officer Three Thomas M. Foose, a Pennsylvania native, a pilot assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, was treated and released.
Chief Warrant Officer Two Paul C. King, a native of Ohio, a pilot assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, was treated and released.