Seven troops, including a fellow Aggie, died when their Blackhawk apparently ran afoul of both bad luck and bad weather.
Six soldiers and a brigadier general from Fort Hood died today when a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter crashed near Waco after hitting the guy wire of a television station tower in heavy fog.
The accident occurred about 7 a.m. between the Central Texas towns of Moody and Bruceville-Eddy. The UH-60 Blackhawk was flying from Fort Hood to the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana. Col. Jonathan Withington said all seven of those on the aircraft were members of the 4th Infantry Division.
“Our condolences and our hearts go out to the families and friends of the seven soldiers aboard this aircraft,” he said.
The helicopter was headed to check out equipment being readied for use in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, spokesman for the Fort Hood-based 4th Infantry Division. The names of the victims, all from Fort Hood, were not immediately released by the military.
A military official at the home of Brig. Gen. Charles B. Allen told The Associated Press that Allen was among those killed. In his 27-year career, Allen, an assistant division commander for the 4th Infantry Division, was stationed at several U.S. and overseas military posts and also worked at the Pentagon.
Brad and Becky Christmas of Wagon Mound, N.M., were notified today that their son, Capt. Todd Christmas, was among those killed, said family friend Patti Goetsch, who answered the phone at the family’s ranch.
Christmas, 26, had just returned to Texas after spending Thanksgiving with his family, she said. She said the Texas A&M graduate, who joined the Army in 2001, served a year in Iraq, where he received the Bronze Star. She said he had been based at Fort Hood since the spring.
“He was doing what he loved,” Goetsch said. “He was a career military man. He was proud to serve his country.”
The helicopter hit a guy wire that stabilizes a 1,800-foot television broadcasting tower, Jerry Pursley, general manager of Waco-Temple-Killeen television station KXXV, told the Associated Press. The tower itself was not hit, he said.
The tower’s lights stopped working early last week after strong storms hit the area, Pursley said. The station notified the Federal Aviation Administration, he said. The agency’s spokesman in Texas did not return a phone call to The Associated Press seeking comment.
Other reports state that the FAA gave the television station a fifteen-day window to repair the lights and sent out notifications of the danger.
Texas A&M has a fairly unique tradition to honor Aggies who have passed. At an annual gathering with a long and storied history and called Aggie Muster, the names of those Aggies lost over the past year are read, with family or friends or fellow Aggies answering “Here” to signify the continued presence of the lost in our lives.
For Capt. Todd Christmas from a fellow Aggie and former serviceman, “Here.” And thank you, sir.