ST. CLOUD, Minn.. (FOX 9) - Officials say investigative teams from the U.S. Army were working Saturday to determine what caused a Minnesota National Guard helicopter to crash this week, killing the three crew members on board.
The three men were killed Thursday shortly after takeoff in St. Cloud at 1:55 p.m. Authorities say the helicopter's crew sent a mayday call at 2:04 p.m. and the base lost contact with the aircraft about a minute later.
After losing contact, search crews were deployed, including local law enforcement and Minnesota State Patrol troopers, to locate the crash site. The helicopter was found in a wooded area off County Road 48 in Maine Prairie Township Thursday evening.
The three soldiers on board, 28-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr, 30-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, and 28-year-old Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, were all pronounced dead.
Saturday, National Guard officials say investigators were at the scene, working to determine what went wrong. Authorities say the soldiers were conducting what they call a routine maintenance flight when the Black Hawk helicopter crashed. The exact circumstances of the mishap are still not known, and it may take some time for the investigation to be completed.
Colonel Shawn Manke says teams from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center arrived Friday night and early Saturday to begin the investigation into the crash.
Those investigators will spend the coming days gathering data from the crash site and helicopter. The helicopter, which remains where it went down, will then be removed after all the data is collected, officials say.
Once the investigation team has compiled the data it needs, the team will return to the Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker in Alabama. Col. Manke says this is normal protocol when there is a crash resulting in death.
While the investigation is underway, the Minnesota National Guard says it is doing everything it can for the unit.
"Every resource that we have available will be made available to the unit," explained Major General Jon Jensen, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. "Including chaplain support, mental health support, counseling, as well as just the presence of their leadership."