- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2023

The Army has identified nine soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who were killed Wednesday when two Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopters crashed during a nighttime training exercise in Kentucky.

On Friday, the soldiers were identified as Chief Warrant Officer Zachary Esparza, 36, of Jackson, Missouri; Chief Warrant Officer Rusten Smith, 32, of Rolla, Missouri; Warrant Officer Jeffery Barnes, 33, of Milton, Florida; Warrant Officer Aaron Healy, 32, of Cape Coral, Florida; Staff Sgt. Joshua C. Gore, 25, of Morehead City, North Carolina; Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, 30, of Mountain Brook, Alabama; Sgt. David Solinas Jr., 23, of Oradell, New Jersey; Sgt. Isaacjohn Gayo, 27, of Los Angeles and Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23, of Austin, Texas.

Maj. Gen. J.P. McGee, commander of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, said it was a time of great sadness for the division.

“The loss of these soldiers will reverberate through our formations for years to come,” Gen. McGee said in a statement. “Now is the time for grieving and healing. The whole division and this community stand behind the families and friends of our fallen soldiers.”

The pilots of the two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were wearing night-vision goggles and flying in what Army officials said was a “multi-ship formation” when they crashed into a field in Trigg County, Kentucky, along the Tennessee state line. The site is about 30 miles northwest of the division headquarters at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

There were no other injuries or casualties from the crash, officials said.

The Army sent an investigation team from their aviation center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, to determine what happened and what lessons could be learned for the future. Defense Department officials did not say how long the inquiry might take.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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