CW2 Nicholas Johnson, CW2 Don Viray, SPC Dean Shaffer, and SPC Chris Workman died on Thursday, April 19th when their Blackhawk helicopter crashed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan while en route to pick up Afghan National Police officers who had been wounded in a suicide bomb attack at their checkpoint. They were assigned to A Company, 2/25 Aviation.
Archive for the 'Afghanistan' category
Yesterday was a worry day; today is a waiting day. If my luck holds, tomorrow will be a guilt day. This is the first of these sequences for this deployment. It’s unlikely that it will be the last.
It’s another beautiful day in Honolulu. Most of the 117 days since my wife got on the plane to go back to Kandahar have been beautiful. Most of the next 250 or so days will also be beautiful.
Thursday night was not a beautiful night in Afghanistan. It was, as Snoopy would type, a dark and stormy night. First reports suggest that this was likely a factor in the crash of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in Helmand Province. The helicopter was one of two that were on a CASEVAC mission. They were en route to an Afghan National Police checkpoint that had just suffered a suicide bombing that killed four police officers and wounded seven more. The first news reports indicated that survivors were considered “unlikely”. Later reports confirmed the deaths of the four American soldiers onboard.
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A little after 7 am on 27 November, 2004, Lt. Colonel Michael McMahon and Chief Warrant Officer Travis Grogan boarded a small twin-engine airplane in Bagram, Afghanistan. The plane, which also had a cargo of 400 pounds of mortar illumination rounds, was operated by Presidential Airways, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blackwater USA. Grogan was an experienced pilot assigned to the 3rd Squadron of the 4th Cavalry Regiment (the 3/4 Cav). McMahon was the 3/4ths commanding officer. At around 7:30, the plane stopped on the taxiway and a third passenger, 21-year old Specialist Harley Miller (also assigned to the 3/4 Cav), boarded the flight. The plane then departed Bagram for Farah, where the 3/4th was based.
Prior to takeoff, the crew informed the tower that they'd be taking off and heading to the south, flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level. Immediately after takeoff, however, the plane turned to the northwest. The flight left radar coverage shortly thereafter, still traveling on a heading other than the one that they had announced. The flight never arrived in Farah. Approximately 45 minutes into the flight, the airplane hit the side of a mountain at an altitude of approximately 14,650 feet above sea level. Five of the six people on board apparently died on impact. The sixth passenger, SPC Miller, survived the impact. He stepped outside the wreckage at least twice, unrolled a sleeping bag, and smoked a last cigarette or two before finally dying, alone on the mountainside in the wreckage while search parties scoured the wrong valley, at least ten hours after the crash as a result of a combination of his injuries, hypoxia, and hypothermia.
The transcript taken from the voice recorder gives some indication of why this crash might have happened.