By Melanie Sun
The Army has released the identities of the three soldiers who were killed in a crash involving two Apache helicopters on Thursday.
The tragic collision near Healy, Alaska, occurred as the soldiers of the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, at Fort Wainwright were returning to base from a training mission.
The unit is part of the 11th Airborne Division, which is nicknamed the “Arctic Angels.”
Two of the soldiers died at the site of the collision, while the third died on the way to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. A fourth soldier, who was injured in the crash, arrived at the hospital in time to receive treatment.
Killed in Thursday’s crash 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.
The fourth soldier is in stable condition in hospital, the army added in the statement on Saturday. He has not been identified.
“The battalion is devastated and mourning the loss of three of our best,” said Lt. Col. Matthew C. Carlsen, the 1-25th AB commander. “Our loss, however, cannot be compared to the suffering and loss which the family members of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Eramo, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle McKenna, and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart ‘Stew’ Wayment are experiencing.”
“The entire team has come together to focus our thoughts, prayers, and actions to provide and sustain them with whatever comfort and support they need at this time, and I promise that this will continue long into the future,” Carlsen said. “Our mission now is to focus on the families, the survivors and to honor and cherish their memories. Chris, Kyle, and Stew will forever be ‘Little Bears,’ ‘Vikings,’ and ‘ToughOnes’ of the Arctic Attack.”
The cause of the crash is being investigated by a Safety Investigation Team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Novosel, Alabama.
Department of Defense instructions and Army regulations prohibit the investigators from releasing any information to the public concerning the causes, analysis, or internal recommendations, the Army said. It added that while Thursday’s crash and the one in Kentucky remain under investigation, “there is no indication of any pattern between the two mishaps.”
“The loss of these Soldiers is devastating and is being felt by family, friends, and military communities across Alaska,” said Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division. “The families of Fort Wainwright and 1-25 are as strong a team as I’ve ever seen. Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends, and loved ones of the fallen.”
The tragedy was the third military helicopter incident in the last three months.
The U.S. Army announced on Friday that it has grounded aviation units for training as a result of the crashes. Just within the last month, 12 soldiers have been killed in such crashes in Alaska and Kentucky.
For active-duty units, the training is to take place between May 1 and 5. Army National Guard and Reserve units will have until May 31 to complete the training.
“The move grounds all Army aviators, except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training,” the Army said in a statement.
Caden Pearson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.