Troops killed in helicopter crash near Iraq-Syria border

By Megan Mayernik
Staff Writer

Seven U.S. service members were killed on March 15 after their helicopter crashed in western Iraq, according to CNN. The crash left no survivors and is not believed to be a result of enemy activity.

The crash is likely a result of technical malfunction. (AP Photo)

The HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed near Qaim, a city located near the Syrian border, shortly after takeoff, according to The New York Times. Preliminary investigations suggested the helicopter suffered from a technical malfunction, as the crash occurred relatively close to the city’s U.S. military base that is used as a hub to direct logistics and supplies.

A nearby American helicopter immediately reported the crash, according to NBC. The scene was quickly secured by the responding Iraqi security forces and coalition members.

“While the investigation is still ongoing, there is absolutely no reason to believe this involved enemy action,” said Colonel Thomas Veale, a spokesman for an American coalition in opposition of the Islamic State, according to NBC. “All indications are this was an accident during a routine troop movement.”

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has continued to work with Iraqi forces as well as the Syrian Democratic Forces to ensure that foreign fighters and insurgents are monitored across the region, according to NBC.

Two of the victims were members of the New York City Fire Department, according to CNN. One day after the crash, Lieutenant Christopher J. Raguso of Division 13 and Fire Marshal Christopher T. “Tripp” Zanetis of the Bureau of Fire Investigation were memorialized by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“They are truly two of New York City’s bravest — running into danger to protect and defend others, both in New York City and in combat overseas,” de Blasio said, according to CNN. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, loved ones and fellow service members and FDNY members.”

Raguso was recognized for his bravery and honored by more than 100 mourners who gathered at the fire station where he served, according to the New York Post.

Raguso and Zanetis were also honored during the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, according to CBS.

President Donald Trump also offered his condolences to the families, according to CNN.

“Their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten,” Trump tweeted on March 16.

The crash is a grim reminder of the international conflict that has continued for years in the Middle East. In a public statement, Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, the director of operations for the fight against the Islamic State, commended the bravery of those killed as the fight against ISIL continues in the region.

“This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations,” Braga said, according to The New York Times. “We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today.”

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