US HH-60 Pave Hawk Crash in Western Iraq Kills All on Board

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Kevin Tanenbaum)
An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Kevin Tanenbaum)

A U.S. HH-60 Pave Hawk crashed in western Iraq on Thursday, killing all on board, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command officials.

"All personnel aboard were killed in the crash," said Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, in a news release Friday. "This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today."

CentCom officials said the crash does not appear to be the result of enemy activity, but remains under investigation. The incident occurred at approximately 6:45 p.m., the release said.

Newsday, citing sources, said members of the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing were among the deceased. The rescue wing is based on Long Island.

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The Air National Guard would not officially confirm the unit involved to Military.com, pending next-of-kin notification.

The Commack, New York, Fire Department said on Facebook that one of its firefighters was among the dead.

"Last night the Commack Fire Department and this great nation of ours lost a great American Patriot, friend and brother. Christopher Raguso, a New York Air National Guard Flight Engineer, died while protecting our freedom, when his helicopter crashed in Iraq killing all seven on board," the Facebook post said.

Defense officials told ABC News that seven crew members, all U.S. airmen, were on board.

During the incident, an accompanying U.S. helicopter immediately reported the crash, and a quick reaction force composed of Iraqi Security Forces and coalition members responded to and secured the area, CentCom said.

A DoD official told The Associated Press on Thursday the crash occurred near the town of Qaim in Anbar Province near the Syrian border. The U.S.-led coalition in the area for operations against Islamic State insurgents have an outpost near Qaim to secure the border region with U.S.-backed Iraq and Syrian Democratic Forces.

CentCom said in a separate release that coalition military forces were conducting strikes against Islamic State targets near Al Qaim, with one strike destroying an ISIS supply route.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence expressed condolences Friday to the friends and family of the airmen.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the brave troops lost in the helicopter crash on the Iraq-Syria border yesterday," Trump said on Twitter. "Their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten."

The HH-60 Pave Hawk is a variant of the Army's Black Hawk helicopter, used to conduct personnel recovery and medical recovery missions. Often associated with the Air Force's combat search-and-rescue missions, known as CSAR, the Pave Hawk's crew is normally comprised of two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner.

The aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet is intended to be replaced within the next decade by the Sikorsky HH-60W, the latest combat rescue helicopter based on the UH-60M Black Hawk.

The crash is believed to be the first helicopter crash in the region since anti-ISIS operations began in 2014.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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