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Three Killed, Another Injured in Helicopter Crash Near U.S.-Mexico Border

US Army

On Friday, March 8, 2024, a UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopter crash near Rio Grande City, Texas, killed two New York Army National Guard aviators and a Border Patrol agent. Another National Guardsman, the aircraft crew chief, was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The fallen heroes were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, 28, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, 30, both dedicated members of the New York National Guard Detachment 2, A Company of the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment; and Border Patrol Agent Chris Luna. Family members identified the injured National Guardsman Aircraft Crew Chief as Jacob Pratt.

According to USA Today, the UH-72 helicopter crashed at around 2:50 p.m. local time while conducting an aviation operation supporting Customs and Border Protection operations on the southwest border. The New York National Guard has deployed UH-72 pilots and support personnel to the United States-Mexico border since 2014.

The UH-72 Lakota Light Utility Helicopter, like the one involved in the fatal crash, is often used for general missions in non-combat environments to support government and law enforcement operations. Aviation Safety Network has documented six UH-72 Lakota helicopter crashes since 2010, including three fatal.

What Caused the UH-72 Crash in Texas?

The Army is investigating the cause of the crash. Investigators arrived at the crash site over the weekend in the hopes of recovering the helicopter’s black box. Once evidence has been collected, the investigators will look for any mechanical issues, evaluate maintenance records, and analyze any flight data information. A final report detailing the cause typically takes 12-24 months.

“Our firm extends our heartfelt condolences to the families of CWO2 Frankoski, CWO2 Grassia, and Agent Luna, and hope that Aircraft Crew Chief Pratt makes a full and swift recovery,” says aviation attorney and Marine Corps. veteran, Timothy A. Loranger.

Victims of Helicopter Crash at U.S.-Mexico Border Identified

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski

CWO2 Frankoski enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in 2016 and enjoyed an impressive military career. She deployed to Kuwait from 2018-2019, where she served as a mission planner with Detachment 5, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 245th Aviation Regiment. She was promoted to Warrant Officer 2 in 2021.

CWO2 Frankoski’s awards include:

  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal
  • Armed Forces Service Medal
  • Army Achievement Medal
  • Army Commendation Medal
  • Army Service Ribbon
  • Basic Aviation Badge
  • Basic Aviator Badge
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon

Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia

In 2013, Grassia joined the New York Army National Guard as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter maintenance specialist. He became a warrant officer in 2019 and received training as a UH-60 pilot. Grassia was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer 2 in 2020.

After graduating from Schalmont High School in 2012, Grassia deployed to Kuwait with Company A of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion from September 2013 to September 2014. He also served on state active duty from 2020 to 2022 as part of the New York National Guard's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CWO2 Grassia’s awards include:

  • Armed Forces Reserve Medal
  • Armed Forces Service Medal
  • Army Achievement Medal
  • Army Good Conduct Medal
  • Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal
  • Army Service Ribbon
  • Basic Aviator Badge
  • Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal

Agent Christopher Luna

Christopher Luna is survived by his wife and two children. In a statement following the fatal crash, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was "devastated" learning of the fatal crash, adding that his deepest thoughts and condolences go out to Agent Luna’s family, loved ones, and colleagues.

Aircraft Crew Chief Jacob Pratt

Aircraft Crew Chief Jacob Pratt, the lone survivor of the helicopter crash at the border, was taken to an area hospital in critical condition. His family posted a GoFundMe, providing an update on his recovery, noting that Pratt was in surgery on March 12. Per the update, the hope is that he will be taken off the ventilator later in the week.

Military Helicopter Crash Lawyers

Under the Feres Doctrine, military members and their families cannot file lawsuits against the federal government. However, if a helicopter crash was caused by a defective design, manufacturing, or maintenance failure from a government contractor, a lawsuit against the company that caused or contributed to the crash may be possible.

Military crash cases are often complex with significant legal challenges that require experience and care. If you or a family member are interested in learning more about your legal rights following a military aviation accident, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney to see if you have a claim. Timothy A. Loranger, a senior partner at Wisner Baum and a U.S. Marine Corps. veteran, has a successful history in handling aviation accidents involving military aircraft. These successes have led to financial compensation for clients and held accountable the companies that prioritize profit over the safety of men and women who serve our country.

Contact us today or call 855-948-5098 for a free and confidential case evaluation.


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