NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Members of a seasoned, Louisiana-based National Guard crew who died last week in a helicopter crash off the Florida coast had done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and participated in humanitarian missions after Gulf Coast hurricanes and in the response to the catastrophic 2010 BP oil spill, military officials said Monday.
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The Louisiana National Guard on Monday identified the pilots and crew of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in the Santa Rosa Sound along Florida’s Panhandle in a nighttime training exercise in dense fog with seven elite Marines aboard.
All eleven on the Black Hawk were killed when the helicopter crashed into about 25 feet of water in the channel of the sound.
Three members of the flight crew were from Louisiana and one was from Virginia. They were described as among the military’s most seasoned helicopter pilots and crew.
Piloting the helicopter were Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin Jr. of Delhi, 37, and Chief Warrant Officer George David Strother of Alexandria, 44. Both were decorated veteran pilots.
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Also killed were Staff Sgt. Lance Bergeron, 40, of Thibodaux and Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich, Fairfax, Virginia.
Military burials with full honors were being planned for the dead, said Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.
Across Louisiana flags are flying at half-staff until sunset March 20 to honor the guard members and seven Marines who died in the crash March 10.
Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander of Marine Corps special operations forces, has said they were practicing rappelling down ropes into the water and heading for land, but had decided to abort the mission as too risky.
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The crash is being investigated by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, based in Fort Rucker, Alabama.
The Marines who died were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Officials earlier identified them as: Capt. Stanford Henry Shaw III of Basking Ridge, New Jersey; Master Sgt. Thomas Saunders of Williamsburg, Virginia; Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn of Queens, New York; Staff Sgt. Trevor P. Blaylock of Lake Orion, Michigan; Staff Sgt. Kerry Michael Kemp of Port Washington, Wisconsin; Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif of Holland, Michigan; and Staff Sgt. Marcus Bawol from Warren, Michigan.
All were from the 2nd Special Operations Battalion of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command.
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