The three members of the National Guard who died when a helicopter crashed in a field in New York State this week were experienced pilots with past business trips to Afghanistan, officials said on Friday.
The crash killed Chief Officer 5 Stephen Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief of Staff 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoe Falls, and Chief of Staff 2 Daniel Prial, 30, of Rochester, according to the National Guard.
The UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter crashed in a farmer’s field near Mendon, south of Rochester, around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. There were no survivors.
The crew conducted training for professional night-vision goggles in the local training area, the National Guard said. The helicopter was based at the Army Aviation Support Center at Rochester International Airport.
Witnesses who called 911 said they heard engines splashing and said the helicopter was flying very low.
An army security investigation team arrived at the scene Thursday from Fort Rocker, Alabama.
Skoda served in the army from 1985 to 1987 and joined the National Guard in 1987. He is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and was stationed there in 2013 and 2019.
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He was a senior UH-60 pilot instructor and maintenance test pilot with nearly 5,000 flight hours and worked full time as a National Guard technician.
Koch, a 20-year-old member of the guard, served in the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. He was also a civilian pilot for New York State Police, who said he was recently honored by the Red Cross for his role in rescuing an 11-year-old boy who fell 100 feet down a ravine in June.
Koch survived his wife and four children, state police said.
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Prial served in the military after winning a commission at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2012.
He served as commander of the medical evacuation platoon in the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division and was stationed in Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015. He became a captain before accepting the appointment of a security officer to be able to to continue flying, officials said.
Prial worked at the Aviation Support Instrument as a federal technician.
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The remains of the three were found at the crash site on Thursday and escorted by marchers in the district medical expert’s office. Residents, some with flags, came out of their homes and greeted when the cars passed.