Three members of the Minnesota National Guard were killed when the helicopter they were aboard crashed Thursday afternoon.
The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was on a maintenance test flight when it lost contact with the National Guard at around 2:00 p.m. local time. The chopper crashed approximately 16 miles southwest of St. Cloud in a wooded area that officials said was not near a residential area.
“On behalf of all Minnesotans, we offer our deepest sympathies to the families of these warriors. They paid the ultimate price in service to Minnesota and to the United States of America,” Gov. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) said at a press conference.
“Words will never ease the pain of this tragic loss and the state of Minnesota is forever in the debt of these warriors.”
LIVE: Gov. Tim Walz to provide an update on today’s Nat’l Guard helicopter crash in Stearns Co. https://t.co/DhszRgtY2F
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The names of the deceased are being withheld until the families of the victims are notified.
Federal investigators are en route to the site of the crash and are expected to arrive Friday. The cause of the crash is not yet known, officials said.
“We are going to be on scene for multiple days and will be assisting the Minnesota National Guard with the situation,” said Chief Deputy Dan Miller of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.
Walz, a veteran of the Minnesota National Guard himself, said the state government is prepared to aid the families of the victims.
“As governor and as a citizen of this great state and as a veteran of the Minnesota National Guard, my heart breaks for the families, the friends and the fellow soldiers. The coming days will be dark and difficult,” he said. “The state of Minnesota stands ready to assist the families of the fallen heroes.”