Brief Summary: Two Army AH-64 Apache helicopters collided outside of Healy, Alaska on Thursday, April 27, killing three soldiers. The Army identified the deceased as CW3 Christopher Eramo, CW2 Kyle McKenna, and WO1 Stewart Wayment. A fourth soldier survived the helo crash and was transported to an Alaska hospital. An investigation into the cause of the crash is expected to take between 12 and 24 months.
Information on AH-64 Apache Helicopter Crash in Alaska
- CW3 Eramo, CW2 McKenna, and WO1 Wayment Tragically Killed in Alaska Helicopter Crash
- Army Grounds Aviation Units After Multiple Fatal Crashes
- What Caused the Healy, Alaska Helicopter Crash?
- Aviation Accident Lawyers with Experience Litigating Alaska Crash Cases
CW3 Eramo, CW2 McKenna, and WO1 Wayment Tragically Killed in Alaska Helicopter Crash
On the afternoon of April 27, 2023, two U.S. Army helicopters collided and crashed roughly 50 miles east of Healy, Alaska. Three soldiers died in the crash, and another was hospitalized.
The 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation at Fort Wainwright identified the deceased Soldiers as:
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo, 39, of Oneonta, New York
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle D. McKenna, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Warrant Officer 1 Stewart Duane Wayment, 32, of North Logan, Utah
The fourth soldier who survived the fatal crash was admitted to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. On Sunday, April 30, the unidentified injured Soldier was listed in stable condition.
According to military officials, the two AH-64 Apache helicopters were heading back to Fort Wainwright from a training mission in the Donnelly Training Area when they collided in mid-air at approximately 1:39 p.m. local time. While the collision occurred in rugged terrain, media reports indicate that there were no weather or visibility issues at the time.
The Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright responded to the scene along with aircraft from the Alaska National Guard. Two of the three deceased victims were pronounced dead at the scene. The third died en route to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
CW3 Eramo, CW2 McKenna, and WO1 Wayment were part of the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation at Fort Wainwright. The unit is part of the 11th Airborne Division, which is nicknamed the "Arctic Angels."
"The battalion is devastated and mourning the loss of three of our best," said Lt. Col. Matthew C. Carlsen, the 1-25th AB commander. "Our loss, however, cannot be compared to the suffering and loss which the family members of Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Eramo, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle McKenna and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart “Stew" Wayment are experiencing.”
Army Grounds Aviation Units After Multiple Fatal Crashes
In the aftermath of the military helicopter crash outside Healy, Alaska, the U.S. Army announced that aviation units were grounded for training. Lt. Col. Terence Kelley, an Army spokesperson, said the suspension of air operations was effective immediately for all Army aviators, except those participating in critical missions. The grounding will last until aviators complete training. For active-duty units, the training is scheduled to occur between May 1 and 5. Army National Guard and Reserve units must complete the training before the end of May.
The grounding announcement followed multiple aviation disasters for the Army over the past few months:
- On March 29, 2023, nine Army soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a routine training exercise outside Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The Army said that while the most recent crash outside Healy, Alaska crash the one in Kentucky remain under investigation, “there is no indication of any pattern between the two mishaps.”
- On February 5, 2023, two soldiers sustained injuries after an Apache helicopter crashed while taking off from the Talkeetna Airport. The aircraft was one of four traveling from Fort Wainwright to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
What Caused the Healy, Alaska Helicopter Crash?
A Safety Investigation Team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center will lead the crash investigation. The investigation process usually takes a year or more to complete. The Army Combat Readiness Center will release information to the public on crash causes and analysis in its AR 15-6 report after the families have been briefed. Some aspects of its analysis and safety recommendations are not released publicly due to limitations set forth by Department of Defense instructions and Army regulations.
The Feres Doctrine generally prevents military service members and their families from suing the U.S. government, which has sovereign immunity from lawsuits. However, according to aviation accident attorney Timothy A. Loranger, a claim against government contractors may be possible if defective design, manufacturing, or civilian performed maintenance failures caused or contributed to the midair collision.
“If the investigation reveals that a malfunctioning component of either aircraft contributed to the cause of this tragedy, there could be a product liability case against the aircraft and manufacturer of that part,” says Loranger. “While it is too soon to speculate on the cause of this terrible collision, we will be following the investigation. Our hearts go out to the families of these brave soldiers. We are sending good thoughts to the surviving pilot who has a long road to recovery ahead.”
Aviation Accident Lawyers with Experience Litigating Alaska Crash Cases
Wisner Baum has a proven track record of success in helicopter crash cases, including those filed on behalf of military service members and their families. Senior partner Timothy A. Loranger is Wisner Baum’s lead military accident attorney. A Marine Corps. veteran who worked as an aircraft mechanic during his years of service, Loranger’s breadth of knowledge and experience is an asset in military helicopter crash investigations, where a claimant must establish that mechanical failure or negligence on the part of a government contractor caused or contributed to the accident.
If you have questions about your legal rights after a helicopter crash, please contact us today or call (855) 948-5098 for a free and confidential case evaluation.