Three pilots of the Idaho Army National Guard died when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Boise during a training flight.
The helicopter was last called at 7:45 pm. Colonel Christopher Burt said during a routine training trip. The UH-60 Black Hawk emergency transmitter locator was activated after about 15 minutes.
Search and rescue teams found the wreck around 12:15 am near a mountain called Lucky Peak. The names of the pilots killed in the accident were not immediately disclosed so their relatives could be notified. They were the only ones on board.
“This is a terrible loss for the National Guard in Idaho and our community,” Major General Michael Garchak, an assistant general with the National Guard in Idaho, said in a statement on the National Guard Facebook page. “Our thoughts and prayers are with families and loved ones as we work through this tragedy.”
The cause of the crash is unknown and is still under investigation. Rain, snow and fog fell in the area on Tuesday night. Another Idaho National Guard aircraft in the area reported that visibility was low as cloud cover fell near the ground.
“There was expected rain in the area,” said Lt. Col. Nicole Washington, commander of the 1st Guards Battalion of the 183rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, where the pilots served, “there was rain expected in the area.” “From what we know now, when they started going back to Boise, (the weather) started to slowly deteriorate … in the back country it could start to deteriorate very quickly.”
Washington said the three pilots spent thousands of hours flying between them. She said two were very trained pilots – with more than ten years of experience – and the other was an experienced pilot who had been flying for more than five years.
They were participating in a routine training mission, flying through hilly terrain after dark and relying in part on night vision goggles for vision. Washington said the helicopter was heading to Boise when the accident occurred, and there was no distress call or any other indication of a problem prior to the accident.
Officials learned of the crash when the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Florida informed them that it had received an active emergency transmission signal from the Black Hawk. The other aircraft trained in the area began to search for the helicopter that fell immediately. But due to bad weather, it had to stop for some time.
Ground crews from the National Guard and area agencies continued their search, and air crews were dispatched again when the weather cleared a few hours later. They found the wreckage after midnight and confirmed that there were no survivors.
Officials said the recovery was expected to continue throughout.