HAMMOND (WGNO) — Four Louisiana National Guardsmen are feared dead after a helicopter crash near Pensacola Tuesday night. The soldiers were based in Hammond and that’s where WGNO reporter Deepak Saini talked to residents who can’t believe it.
“It’s devastating. It’s so close to home. I’m speechless,” says Lawanda Cypryan.
A disheartening sight as a search for survivors turns up parts of a chopper and human remains. Four Louisiana National Guardsmen were flying a Black Hawk helicopter, carrying seven marines, when it crashed during a training mission. A dense fog advisory was in place and visibility was less than a quarter of a mile.
“It’s a tough day when you’re responsible. They’re under my command. I take very seriously their safety and well-being and that of their families,” says Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis with the Louisiana National Guard.
The soldiers were highly experienced, serving two tours in Iraq and responding to hurricane recovery efforts in Katrina, Rita and Isaac.
“They had several thousand hours in that cockpit. They had several thousand combat hours in that cockpit,” says Maj. Gen. Curtis.
President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to the families of the 11 service members aboard the chopper. Now a community is left to deal with the realization that their soldiers will never come home.
“It’s just horrible. I feel for the families. It’s a close-knit community,” says Hammond resident Tammy Fidel.
A second Black Hawk was also taking part in the mission, but it returned to base.