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Test Pilots Killed in Bell Helicopter Crash Were Marine Reservists

Company Photo of the Bell 525 Relentless (Image: Bell Helicopter)
Company Photo of the Bell 525 Relentless (Image: Bell Helicopter)

FARNBOROUGH, England -- The two test pilots killed in the tragic crash of a Bell 525 Relentless fly-by-wire chopper earlier this month were both Marines, an executive said Tuesday.

Vince Tobin, vice president of advanced tiltrotor systems for the Fort Worth-based company, had little information to share about the deadly accident, which he said was under investigation.

"These were two pilots, two fellow employees, friends, who also happen to be U.S. Marine Corps reservists, so we're mourning their loss," Tobin said. "The investigation is ongoing; we don't know anything. Anything I would tell you would be pure speculation, and I won't do that today. Our primary concern at Bell Helicopter for the foreseeable future is to take care of the families of our lost friends."

A spokesman for Bell, Andy Woodward, told Military.com the company was not revealing the identities of the two pilots.

However, family members have publicly identified one of the men as Jason Grogan, 43, of Burleson, Texas.

Officials with Marine Corps Forces Reserve told Military.com Grogan was a major assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, a reserve squadron of AH-1W Super Cobras.

According to Grogan's official service record, he had deployed twice to Iraq in 2004 and 2004 and once to Afghanistan in 2003. His first deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were back-to-back, according to his record; he departed Afghanistan March 20, 2004 and arrived in Iraq the following day.

Grogan had earned the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, according to his service record.

The July 6 crash in Chambers Creek, Texas, happened just days before the Bell 525 was set to be featured here at the Farnborough Air Show. The chopper is being developed as a medium-lift platform that employs breakthrough technology, such as the fly-by-wire electronic interface instead of manual controls. Current plans have testing on the chopper completed by 2017.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Transportation Safety Board officials have examined the crash site and expect a preliminary accident report to be complete within two weeks.

In the wake of the crash, Bell canceled Farnborough media activities connected with the Relentless, though a static display of the aircraft was still present at the show.

"This is a devastating time for Bell Helicopter," spokeswoman Virginie Brizard said in a statement announcing the cancellation. "Our priority is to provide support to the families of our fallen team members and assistance to local, state and federal authorities."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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