All three National Guard soldiers on a maintenance test flight were killed Thursday afternoon when their helicopter crashed into a farm field about 16 miles southwest of Saint Cloud. Governor Tim Walz fought back tears as he announced the deaths tonight at a news conference near the crash site. “As governor and as a citizen of this great state and as a veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard, my heart breaks for the families, the friends and the fellow soldiers, ” the governor said. “The coming days will be dark and difficult. The state of Minnesota stands ready to assist the families of our fallen heroes.”
Brigadier General Sandy Best, Deputy Adjutant General of the Minnesota National Guard said, “On behalf of our adjutant general, Major General Jon Jensen, our Minnesota National Guard family is devastated by the death of these soldiers, and our priority right now is ensuring that our families are taken care of.”
Officials say investigators are en route from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The helicopter reportedly called in a “mayday” about nine minutes after taking off from the Minnesota National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility at Saint Cloud Airport. The wreckage was located near dusk, south of Cold Spring in a field near a tree line. Authorities say there are no homes in the area.
Senator Amy Klobuchar says the three soldiers’ service to the state and nation will never be forgotten. State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says Minnesotans are united in grief and Thursday’s accident reminds us of the dangerous job we ask National Guard members to do on a daily basis. Majority Leader Ryan Winkler says the Minnesota House of Representatives “sends its deepest condolences to the families of the National Guard service members who passed away in this tragic accident.”
Here is raw audio of the press conference from earlier this evening: