Two soldiers killed in Wheeler helicopter crash


POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2009



Two 25th Infantry Division aviators were killed when their 0H-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed this afternoon at Wheeler Army Airfield at Schofield Barracks.

Army officials said the two Schofield Barracks pilots were the only people aboard the two-seater, 42-foot-long helicopter when it had a “hard landing” about 3:30 p.m. while conducting a general maintenance test flight. The cause of the accident is under investigation, they said.

The names of the two soldiers were withheld pending notification of relatives.

It was the third fatal helicopter crash at Schofield Barracks since 1996.

Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Earle Kealoha said firefighters responded to a call of a downed aircraft at 3:34 p.m. But when they arrived four minutes later, federal fire crews already had the fire under control.

The 25th Infantry Division’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade is preparing for a 12-month deployment to Iraq scheduled to begin October. The unit flies CH-47 Chinook, UH-60 Black Hawk and OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopters.

The unit served an Iraqi combat tour in 2006-07 and in Afghanistan in 2003-04.

The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade just completed a comprehensive training period here and at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert in preparation for Iraq deployment.

At the Big Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area the brigade said it logged more than 2,000 hours encompassing 669 flights flying without an accident.

The commander of the unit is Col. Michael Lundy.

Before today there have been two other major 25th Division helicopter crashes on Oahu.

>> March 5, 1996: The pilot and co-pilot of an AH-1 Cobra gunship were killed at Schofield Barracks when their engine failed.

>> Feb. 12, 2001: Six soldiers were killed and 11 injured when two Black Hawk helicopters collided during a night training exercise over Kahuku in Hawaii’s worst Army training accident.

While In Iraq, the unit lost four aviators. They were:

>> Capt. Christopher B. Johnson, 29, of Excelsior Springs, Mo.; and Chief Warrant Officer William I. Brennan, 36, of Bethlehem, Conn., were killed  Oct. 16, 2004, in Baghdad when their OH-58D helicopter apparently collided with another OH-58D helicopter and crashed.  

>> 1st Lt. Keith N. Heidtman, 24, of Norwich, Conn., and Chief Warrant Officer Theodore U. Church, 32, of  South Point, Ohio, were killed May 28, 2007, when their OH-58D Kiowa helicopter crashed after receiving heavy enemy fire north of Baghdad.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.