Nine U.S. Army soldiers lost their lives on the night of March 29, 2023 when two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in southwest Kentucky near the Tennessee border. Army officials said one helicopter had four soldiers on board while the other had five. There were no survivors.
All of the crash victims were from the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, which is roughly 30 miles away from the crash site. The 101st Airborne Division (known as the "Screaming Eagles") is a light infantry division of the Army that specializes in air assault operations.
The fatal military helicopter crash happened at approximately 10:00 p.m. local time in an open field near the intersection of Old Canton Pike and Maple Grove Rd. in Cadiz, Kentucky. Authorities from Fort Campbell said the helicopters were participating “in a routine training mission” and flying in a multi-ship formation using night-vision goggles. While four medical evacuation helicopters were involved in the night training, only two were involved in the crash.
Names of Kentucky Black Hawk Crash Victims
Military officials at Fort Campbell identified the nine service men and women who perished in one of the deadliest training crashes have been identified. Our firm extends our deepest condolences to the families of the brave men and women who perished in this tragedy:
- Warrant Officer 1 Jeffery Barnes, 33 (Milton, Florida)
- Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23 (Austin, Texas)
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza, 36 (Jackson, Missouri)
- Sgt. Isaac John Gayo, 27 (Los Angeles, California)
- Staff Sgt. Joshua C. Gore, 25 (Morehead City, North Carolina)
- Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy, 32 (Cape Coral, Florida)
- Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, 30 (Mountain Brook, Alabama)
- Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32 (Rolla, Missouri)
- Sgt. David Solinas Jr, 23 (Oradell, New Jersey)
What Caused the Black Hawk Crash in Kentucky?
A group of aviation safety specialists from Fort Rucker, Alabama will investigate the cause of the Kentucky Black Hawk helicopter crash. It typically takes a year or more to thoroughly investigate and issue a report on the cause (or causes) of military aviation accidents.
An area resident told AP News that he and his wife happened to be on their porch around the time of the incident. Nick Tomaszewski, who lives about a mile from the crash site, remarked to his wife that the Black Hawks appeared to be flying low and “kind of close to one another.” According to Tomaszewski, moments later, he saw “what looked like a firework went off in the sky.”
“All of the lights in their helicopter went out. It was like they just poofed ... and then we saw a huge glow like a fireball,” he said.
If the helicopters collided midair, it may be difficult for the families of the victims to pursue a legal case. Under the Feres Doctrine, military service members and their families cannot sue 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 crash.
“We have seen far too many Black Hawk crashes over the last several years,” says Loranger, a Marine Corps veteran. “While they are traditionally thought of as workhorses for the military, the record creates a serious cause for concern; they crash more often. While it is too early to speculate on the cause of this tragedy in Kentucky, I believe there needs to be a deep dive into the causes of these crashes and corrective action taken immediately to ensure the safety of the men and women who serve our country in uniform.”
The Black Hawk and its variants have been involved in hundreds of crashes since the 1980s. As of March 2023, Aviation Safety Network reports 390 total incidents involving Black Hawk helicopters. A total of 970 people have died in Black Hawk helicopter crashes, per ASN data.
What is an HH-60 Pave Hawk?
The type of helicopter involved in the Kentucky crash is a Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, a model developed from the Uh-60 Black Hawk. The HH-60 helicopter is a four-blade, twin-engine, medium-lift utility military helicopter that is most commonly used for search and rescue missions, aeromedical evacuations, and disaster relief. It is primarily used by the U.S. military and South Korea’s military.
Helicopter Crash Lawyer with Experience in Cases Stemming From Black Hawk Crashes
Wisner Baum has decades of experience litigating helicopter crash cases, including those filed on behalf of military service members and their families. We have represented clients in cases involving Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters. Led by senior partner and aviation accident attorney Timothy A. Loranger, our team knows what it takes to win cases against major aviation companies. Loranger is a pilot and Marine veteran who worked as an aircraft mechanic during his years of service. This experience is an asset in military helicopter crash investigations, where the claimant must prove that mechanical failure or negligence on the part of a government contractor caused or contributed to crash.
If you have questions about your legal rights, please contact us today or call (855) 948-5098.