BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three Idaho Army National Guard pilots died Tuesday evening when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Boise during a training flight.
The helicopter was last contacted at 7:45 p.m. while it was on a routine training flight, Col. Christopher Burt said. The UH-60 Black Hawk’s emergency transmitter locator was activated about 15 minutes later.
Search and rescue crews found the wreckage about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday near a mountain named Lucky Peak. The names of the pilots killed in the crash were not immediately released so that their relatives could be notified. They were the only people on board.
“This is a tremendous loss to the Idaho National Guard and our community,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of the Idaho National Guard, in a statement on the Guard’s Facebook page. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones as we work through this tragedy.”
The cause of the crash is unknown and is under investigation. The area had rain, snow and fog Tuesday night. Another Idaho National Guard aircraft in the region reported that visibility was low as the cloud cover dropped close to the ground.
“There were forecasted showers in the area,” said Lt. Col. Nicole Washington, the commander of the Guard’s 1st of the 183rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, where the pilots served. “From what we know now, when they started to turn back to Boise, it (the weather) had slowly started to deteriorate … in the back country it can start to deteriorate very quickly.”
The three pilots had thousands of flying hours between them, Washington said. Two were senior instructor pilots — both with more than a decade of experience — and the other was an experienced pilot who had been flying for more than five years, she said.
They were taking part in a routine training mission, flying through mountainous terrain after dark and relying in part on night-vision goggles to see. The helicopter was heading back to Boise when the crash occurred, and there was no mayday call or other indication of of a problem before the accident, Washington said.
Officials learned of the crash when the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Florida notified them that it had received an active emergency transmitter signal from the Black Hawk. The other aircraft training in the region began searching for the downed helicopter immediately. But it was forced to stop for a time because of the foul weather.
Ground crews from the National Guard and area agencies continued the search, and air crews were sent out again when the weather cleared a few hours later. They found the wreckage after midnight and confirmed there were no survivors.
Recovery operations were expected to continue throughout Wednesday, officials said.