Three Army National Guard soldiers were killed Thursday when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed near St. Cloud, Minnesota, authorities said.
The Minnesota National Guard personnel were conducting a routine maintenance test flight just after 2 p.m. when they lost contact with air traffic controllers at St. Cloud Army Aviation Facility, according to Minnesota National Guard officials.
The Minnesota Aviation Rescue Team, with the help of St. Paul firefighters and the Minnesota State Patrol, found the aircraft 90 minutes after it went missing, according to CBS affiliate WCCO reported.
Authorities reportedly located the damaged helicopter in a field of trees on a farm in Kimball, a city in Stearns County about 20 miles southwest of St. Cloud.
The St. Paul Fire Department performed an attempted rescue, but the agency later wrote on Twitter that the crash site had been found and its resources were no longer needed.
The names of the three soldiers have yet to be released and are currently being “withheld pending next of kin notification,” the Minnesota National Guard wrote on Twitter Thursday.
However, a state lawmaker identified the soldiers as members of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, WCCO reported.
Following the tragic event, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz addressed the state in Kimball, offering his condolences and confirming the day’s events.
In his decision to travel to Stearns County, the governor canceled the tree lighting ceremony that was set to take place Thursday night at his mansion.
“Words will never ease the pain of this tragic loss, and the state of Minnesota is forever in the debt of these warriors,” he said. “The coming days will be dark and difficult. The state of Minnesota stands ready to assist the families of our fallen heroes.”
Walz also ordered that all flags across Minnesota “be flown at half-staff at all state and federal buildings” until 2:05 p.m. on Monday as a means of honoring the fallen victims.
“Our Minnesota National Guard family is devastated by the deaths of these soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, the Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard, in a statement on Twitter. “Our priority right now is ensuring that our families are taken care of.”
An investigation into the incident will continue as the cause of the crash remains unknown.
A safety investigation team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama arrived in St. Cloud Friday to take lead on the case, the Minnesota National Guard said.
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