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Idaho National Guard Identifies 3 Pilots Killed In Black Hawk Helicopter Crash

The Idaho Army National Guard has identified the three pilots killed Tuesday when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training exercise near Lucky Peak.The soldiers killed were Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jesse Anderson, 43; Chief Warrant Officer 3 George “Geoff” Laubhan, 39; and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Peltzer, 43.

“The sudden and tragic loss of three of our fellow Guardsmen is extremely heartbreaking to every member of our Idaho National Guard family,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho and commander of the Idaho National Guard.

“I have received numerous messages of condolence from many people here in Idaho and throughout the nation, and all of your thoughts, prayers and support are sincerely appreciated and much needed” he said. “It is very comforting, at such a challenging time, to have the care and support of so many.”

Anderson, a Boise resident, was a senior instructor pilot and had served in the Idaho Army National Guard since 2008. He is survived by his wife and four children.

Laubhan, a Boise resident, was an instructor pilot and had served in the Idaho Army National Guard since 2010. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Peltzer, a Nampa resident, was a pilot and had served in the Idaho Army National Guard since 2005. He is survived by his wife and two children.

An investigation into the crash is underway, conducted by the Army Aviation Safety Center.

Original post from Feb. 3 at 11:45 a.m.:

An Idaho National Guard Black Hawk helicopter crashed during routine training exercises Tuesday evening, killing three pilots. The crash remains under investigation, but weather is thought to have been a factor.

Guard officials say the UH-60 Black Hawk lifted off for training about 6:50 p.m. Tuesday, and had completed exercises in its ‘nap of the earth’ training area over mountainous terrain east of Boise near Lucky Peak. The crew radioed in a return trip to Boise, and the craft’s transponder pinged with normal readings about 7:45 p.m.

At approximately 8 p.m., officials from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Florida called Gowen Field to report an emergency transponder signal coming from the area. A second Black Hawk on a training run in a different area attempted to search the area from the air, but weather conditions made initial air search attempts unsuccessful according to Col. Christopher Burt, State Army aviation officer.

“At approximately 11 p.m., weather improved enough to launch another aircraft to continue the search in conjunction with our ground crew and Idaho Mountain Rescue,” Burt said.

Rescue crews reached the crash site at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday and confirmed there were no survivors.

Victims have not yet been identified, but each of the three pilots was considered very experienced. The most senior pilot had more than 15 years of experience, according to 183rd Aviation Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Nicole Washington.

“One of the crew members was what we call our standardization instructor pilot. So he's the instructor pilot of instructor pilots,” she said. Other pilots on board had more than 10 years and more than five years experience as pilots.

It took more than an hour via snowmobile to gain ground access to the crash site. Recovery efforts are continuing. Inspectors from the Army Aviation Safety Center will arrive Thursday to lead the investigation.

All flight activity at Gowen Field has been suspended, pending the investigation. The pain of losing fellow guard members was evident on the faces of the officers who spoke with media Wednesday, as well as Governor Brad Little. Lt. Col. Washington said the loss leaves an indescribable void within the guard community.

“We eventually will have to get back to flying once we are cleared. But that will be with counseling [and] open communication,” he said. “We will always, certainly, any time an incident occurs, we take a step back and pause. We do a lot of internal reflection, whether it's adverse conditions, weather conditions; what we can do better going forward to reassure the pilots that still have to go fly, still have to go support the state and the people of Idaho.”

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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