Two special operations soldiers were killed and three others injured on Thursday evening when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed during routine training off the Californian coast, Army officials said. Their helicopter crashed on San Clemente Island, which is about 70 miles west of Coronado and San Diego.
The deceased were Staff Sgt. Vincent P. Marketta, 33, of Brick, New Jersey, and Sgt. Tyler M. Shelton, 22, of San Bernardino, California, according to an Army Special Operations Command media release.
“The loss of Staff Sgt. Marketta and Sgt. Shelton has left a scar in this Regiment that will never completely heal,” said Col. Andrew R. Graham, commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). “Their level of dedication to the 160th SOAR (A) and their exemplary service in the Army is the embodiment of what it means to be a Night Stalker and a Soldier.”
The unit was conducting the training in Coronado, Calif. when the incident occurred, a spokesperson from SOCOM said. An investigation is currently underway.
“An element of U.S. Army Special Operations Command was conducting routine training in the vicinity of Coronado, California, on August 27, when an aircraft incident occurred,” SOCOM’s spokesperson added. “Two Soldiers were killed, and three were injured. The area has been secured, and an investigation into the incident is underway. More information will be released 24-hours following next of kin notification. Our sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of the deceased. We thank you for not contacting them during this difficult time.”
“At this time we are not releasing anything beyond the statement provided,” said J. Elise Van Pool, an Army spokeswoman, in an email. “We are still in the process of making next of kin notifications and will not release any additional information until that process is complete.”
The soldiers killed and injured are from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, citing a Defense Department official. The 160th SOAR is headquartered out of Fort Campbell, Ky. It provides rotary wing support to special operations forces all over the world.
The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is the U.S. Army’s primary medium-lift utility transport and air assault aircraft. It is a twin-engined medium-lift utility helicopter. It is equipped with a single 4-bladed rotor and a single 4-bladed tail rotor. The necessary crew compliment for the UH-60A is three: pilot, co-pilot, and crew chief. The titanium-cored rotor blades are resistant to AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) fire up to 23mm and are equipped with pressurized sensors capable of detecting loss of rotor pressurization (damage). The MH-60 is the special operations version.
The A model was designed to carry 11 combat troops in addition to its crew. It was intended to serve in utility, air assault, medevac, command and control, and reconnaissance roles. The Army began converting Black Hawks to the medevac role in 1981.
Two months ago another incident occurred in the area. Eight Marines and a sailor with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit died on June 30 off San Clement, when their amphibious assault vehicle sank as they were returning to their ship after finishing training. Their bodies were recovered on August 7. A memorial ceremony was held on August 21 by their unit.
The servicemembers who died in that incident were:
- Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 18, of Corona, California
- Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California.
- Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
- Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (Fleet Marine Force) Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California.
- Lance Cpl. Jack-Ryan Ostrovsky, 20, of Bend, Oregon.
- Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 19, of New Braunfels, Texas.
- Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 22, of Harris, Texas.
- Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 18, of Portland, Oregon.
- Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California.
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