Nine soldiers were killed when two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a training exercise in Kentucky on Wednesday night, officials said Thursday morning.
The crash occurred at around 10 p.m. local time (11 p.m. ET) in Trigg County, west of Fort Campbell, the Army base said in a statement early Thursday. The two HH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation aircraft were engaged in a training exercise, officials said.
All nine soldiers were based at Fort Campbell in the 101st Airborne Division. Their identities were not immediately made public, pending next-of-kin notification.
Brig. Gen. John Lubas, with the 101st Airborne Division, said there were five people in one helicopter and four in the other, which he described as “fairly typical.”
The helicopters were being flown using night vision goggles, Lubas said.
The Army has a deployed an aircraft safety team from Alabama who will arrive later Thursday and initiate an investigation into the cause of the crash, Lubas said. He said he is hopeful investigators will be able to pull data from on-board computers, noting there’s something similar to a black box on board that can shed more light on the crash.
“This is a truly tragic loss for our families, our division and Fort Campbell and our number one priority is caring for the families and the soldiers without our combat aviation brigade,” Lubas said.
The 101st Airborne Division, the only air assault division of the U.S. Army, had confirmed the helicopter accident and several casualties in a tweet early Thursday morning.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during a news conference Thursday: “We know a lot about loss in Kentucky, especially these last few years. We’re going to do what we always do. We’re going to wrap our arms around these families.”
Kentucky State Police were on the scene of the helicopter crash, along with military investigators and several other agencies, the department said in a news release early Thursday morning.
State police said that the crash occurred in a partially wooded field and that a perimeter had been set up around the debris.
Nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles,” the 101st Airborne Division was activated on Aug. 16, 1942, and is based near Kentucky’s border with Tennessee.