Four members of the New York Air National Guard -including several members of the FDNY- were killed after their Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter crashed in Iraq on Thursday.
Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, Capt. Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs and Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe were assigned to 106th Rescue Air Wing, the same unit that made headlines in 1991 after a similar rescue helicopter went down attempting to rescue endangered mariners during the famed “Perfect Storm”.
Two Florida rescuemen were part of the AFRES’ 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida: Master Sgt. William R. Posch and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis. Also aboard was Capt. Mark K. Weber, a member of the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody AFB, GA.
The New Yorkers made up four of seven who were killed on Thursday, and -in addition to their duties with the 106th- Raguso and Zanetis were active members of the FDNY.
“Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal Zanetis bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service-as New York City Firefighters and as members of the United States Armed Forces,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told CBS Local on Friday. “The hearts and prayers of the entire Department are with their loved ones and with the families of their five fellow service members who lost their lives defending our country.”
The HH-60G Pave Hawk involved in the crash reportedly went down over Western Iraq, thought Pentagon officials do not believe that enemy fire was involved.
His last deployment before he intended to call it quits, Raguso was killed a day after his 39th birthday.
“He told his family this was going to be his last mission. He went over there hoping to come home. Unfortunately, he’s not coming home,” Commack Fire Dept, Commissioner Steven Fontana said.
Briggs was a full-time military man who had previously served disaster relief missions in US territory, as well as combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. He leaves behind two children.
President Donald Trump offered his thoughts and prayers Friday on Twitter.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the brave troops lost in the helicopter crash on the Iraq-Syria border yesterday,” he tweeted. “Their sacrifice in service to our country will never be forgotten.”
NYFD Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro spoke on Friday about the dangers that CSAR pilots and crew face.
“What they do is beyond dangerous- going into dangerous situations to bring out wounded people and downed pilots,” Nigro said. “They did rescue work here in the United States during the hurricanes just last year.”
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