Nine soldiers were killed when two 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.”
Army officials detail circumstances of deadly Black Hawk helicopter crashMarch 30, 202304:43
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 within our combat aviation brigade,” Lubas said.
Tim Gore, a pastor in North Carolina, on Thursday identified his son as one of the nine soldiers killed.
In a statement provided to NBC News he called his son, Staff Sgt. Caleb Gore, 25, a real-life Captain America who loved serving his country in the Army.
“His passion was search and rescue and if you happened to be wounded on the battlefield, Caleb coming out of that helicopter would be the most beautiful thing you would ever see,” the statement said.
“He was kind, compassionate and a gentle giant because he was built like a tank. He was soon to become a registered nurse and was taking leadership training so that he could continue his career as he got older by training others in this field.”
In a separate Facebook post, Gore said his son's “precious wife,” Haleigh, is pregnant and a little boy is expected in about six months.
“My son left behind a beautiful memory in the hearts of everyone he touched," Gore said in the statement. "He is my Son. He is my hero and I am proud that God let him call me Dad.”
The 101st Airborne Division, the Army's only air assault division, 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.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement he’s saddened by the “tragic loss.”
“My heart goes out to the families of these service members and to the members of the 101st Airborne Division who bravely and proudly serve our country each and every day,” he said. “I’m saddened by this tragic loss, and I am working with Army leadership to make sure our troops and their families receive the care that they need in the wake of this accident.”
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.