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Copter crash inquiry starts; 2 victims named


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POSTED: Saturday, May 30, 2009

A team from the Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., arrived yesterday to begin an investigation into a Wednesday helicopter crash that left two pilots dead.

; The Army in Hawaii identified the men as Chief Warrant Officer Stanley Blane Hepfner, 29, of Hubbard, Ohio, and Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Bryce Millward, 28 of Chubbuck, Idaho.

Both men were not married and had no local survivors, according to a news release. They were members of the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks. Their unit is slated for deployment to Iraq in the fall.

Hepfner, a seasoned combat veteran, was assigned to Hawaii in December. He joined the Army in 1998 after graduating from Hubbard High School and served in the infantry on peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Egypt. After being commissioned as a pilot in December 2002, he served a combat tour in Iraq as an aviator, according to information from the U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii.

Millward joined the Army in 2006 after serving as a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionary in Brazil. He was a 1999 graduate of Highland High School in Chubbuck and attended Idaho State University.

The Army did not identify their next of kin. A family spokesman told reporters that Millward is survived by mother LaNae Dye of Chubbuck and father Joseph Millward of Mesa, Ariz., according to KIDK television in Pocatello, Idaho.

The elder Millward said in a telephone interview that his son had been a musician for years, composing music and playing guitar in a band.

Hepfner is survived by mother Rene Possert, according to Youngstown, Ohio, news media.

“;Both officers were among the very best and will always be remembered for their professionalism, selfless services and expertise as Army aviators,”; said Col. Michael D. Lundy, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, in a written statement.

The fatal crash, which an Army spokesman described as a “;hard landing,”; occurred on the Wheeler Army Airfield runway while the two aviators were performing a general maintenance test flight in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft.

The single-engine, double-rotor aircraft is 34 feet long and holds only a two-member crew. The aircraft has been used since 1991 in combat scout-attack missions.