U.S. Army investigators have recovered flight recording devices from two helicopters that collided last week in Interior Alaska, killing three soldiers and injuring another.
The AH-64 Apache helicopters collided April 27 about 50 miles east of Healy while returning from training at an aerial gunnery range in the Donnelly Training Area southeast of Fairbanks.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the helicopters to collide over the mountainous, snow-covered terrain. They were flying at around 6,000 feet above sea level in fair weather, the Army said.
Two soldiers were aboard each helicopter — all from the 11th Airborne Division’s 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks. Two died at the scene and another died on the way to a Fairbanks hospital.
The injured soldier, whose name has not been made public, was released from the hospital Sunday evening and is recovering at home, according to John Pennell, a U.S. Army Alaska spokesman.
The soldiers who died were Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo, 39, of Oneonta, New York; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle D. McKenna, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart Duane Wayment, 32, of North Logan, Utah.
A team of investigators from the Army Combat Readiness Center in Fort Novosel, Alabama, arrived in Alaska on Sunday and flew to the crash site Monday, Pennell said. There is no timeline for when the investigation will be completed.
Investigators on Monday recovered the black boxes, which contain a 30-minute recording loop of data from the flight, including altitude, aircraft attitude, speed and heading, the Army said in a statement Wednesday.
The wreckage remained at the crash site early this week, but Pennell said there would be plans to move it.
A memorial service is planned Thursday at Fort Wainwright for families of the soldiers and members of their unit, a spokeswoman for the base said.
Eramo joined the Army in 2005 and graduated from Warrant Officer Candidate School in 2012, the statement from the Army said. He was stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage from 2005 to 2010 and at Fort Wainwright from 2016 to 2018. He returned to Alaska for his current tour in June, officials said. He had nine awards of the Army Commendation Medal, six awards of the Army Achievement Medal, the Valorous Unit Award, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
McKenna was commissioned in 2018 as a second lieutenant and became a warrant officer in 2021 before he reported to Alaska, the statement said. He had been awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and both the Parachute and Air Assault badges.
Wayment joined the Army in 2017 and graduated from Warrant Officer Candidate School in 2020, the statement said. He reported to Alaska in July. He was awarded five Army Achievement Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.