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 happened around 10 p.m. local time (11 p.m. ET) in Trigg County, west of Fort Campbell, the military base said in a statement early Thursday. Officials said two HH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation aircraft were engaged in a training exercise.
All nine soldiers were stationed at Fort Campbell in the 101st Airborne Division. Their identities were not immediately released pending notification of next of kin.
Brig Gen. John Lupas, with the 101st Airborne Division, said there were five people in one helicopter and four in the other, which he described as “very common.”
The helicopters were flown using night vision goggles, Lupas said.
The military has dispatched an aviation safety team from Alabama that will arrive late Thursday and begin an investigation into the cause of the crash, Lupas said. He said he hopes investigators can pull data from on-board computers, something like a black box, that could shed more light on the crash.
“This is truly a tragic loss for our families, our unit and Fort Campbell, and our top priority is taking care of the families and soldiers without our Air Force,” Lupas said.
101st Airborne Division, The Air Assault Wing only The US military confirmed the helicopter crash and multiple casualties in a tweet early Thursday morning.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during a press conference Thursday: “We know a lot about the loss in Kentucky, especially in the last few years. We’re going to do what we always do. We are going to wrap our arms around these families.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that he was saddened by the “terrible loss”.
“My heart goes out to the families of these service members and the members of the 101st Airborne Division who bravely and proudly serve our country every day,” he said. “I am saddened by this tragic loss and am working with Army leadership to ensure our troops and their families receive the care they need in the wake of this accident.”
Kentucky State Police, military investigators and other agencies were at the scene of the helicopter crash, the department said in a news release early Thursday.
State police said the accident occurred in a partially wooded field and a perimeter wall has been erected around the debris.
The 101st Airborne Division, nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles,” was activated on August 16, 1942, and was located near the Kentucky, Tennessee border.