Army expects long wait for answers in fatal crash


POSTED: Saturday, June 13, 2009

Army officials say it will be months before investigators complete an official report on the fatal helicopter crash at Wheeler Army Airfield.

A six-man team from the Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center is still investigating the May 27 crash of an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter that killed two 25th Infantry Division aviators.

Jennifer Albert, spokeswoman for the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., said there is no indication how long it will take to determine why the two-man helicopter crashed.

However, it will be at least two months after the field investigation is completed before an official report is sent to the Army leadership at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter.

The frame of the helicopter was taken to a Wheeler Army Airfield hangar, a short distance from where the aircraft crashed while performing routine maintenance tests. The inspection team, comprised of instructor pilot and maintenance and other technical experts, arrived on May 29 from Fort Rucker.

The two pilots—Chief Warrant Officer Stanley B. Hepfner and Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan B. Millward—were remembered at a June 5 memorial ceremony at Wheeler. They were both members of A Troop, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, known as the “;Lightning Horse”; Squadron. The aviators are assigned to the 25th Aviation Combat Brigade, which will deploy to Iraq in October for 12 months.

The squadron is responsible for the 30 Kiowa Warrior helicopters assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. The brigade also flies 12 CH-47 Chinook and 50 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

As soldiers and families from the aviation brigade looked on from the Wheeler flight line, promotion orders were read for the advancement of Hepfner to chief warrant officer 3, according to an Army news release.

“;It was good they went through with the promotion,”; said Spc. Matthew Sanders, aircraft armament electronic avionics systems repairer in A Troop, in the news release. “;I remember talking to Mr. Hepfner at (Pohakuloa Training Area) when he found out he'd been picked up (for chief warrant officer 3) and how excited he was. For them to go through with the promotion—it really meant a lot to everyone in the troop.”;

Following the promotion, a moment of silence was held. Four Kiowa helicopters flew over the cavalry troops in formation. As they passed over head, one of the helicopters veered off to the right, signifying the loss of two of their own.