2 Guardsmen dead after military helicopter crashes during routine training flight

ByMatthew Seyler and Meredith Deliso ABCNews logo
Saturday, February 24, 2024

Two National Guardsmen are dead after their military helicopter crashed in northeast Mississippi during a routine training flight on Friday, officials said.

The soldiers were identified by state officials on Saturday as Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Andrew Zemek, 36, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Joshua Abbott, 42.

Both servicemembers served at a Mississippi National Guard Army aviation support facility in Tupelo, according to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.

Zemek served as an AH-64 Delta Apache standardization instructor pilot and was in the Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment.

Abbott served as a maintenance test pilot and was in the Delta Company of the 2nd Battalion, 151st Lakota Medical Evacuation Unit.

"I wanted to extend my deepest condolences to the families and to the friends of our fallen soldiers," Gov. Reeves said at a press briefing on Saturday. "We will always remember these dedicated soldiers for their honorable service and we grieve with the families during this tragic time."

The AH-64 Apache crashed around 2 p.m. Friday in a wooded area near Booneville in Prentiss County, according to the Mississippi National Guard.

The incident is under investigation and no further details are being released at this time, the Mississippi National Guard said.

"Today is a devastating day for the Mississippi National Guard as we mourn the loss of two of our brave brothers and arms," Maj. Gen. Janson Boyles, commanding general of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard, said at Saturday's briefing. "This accident serves as a constant reminder of the selfless service, sacrifice and commitment that our brave servicemen and women face while performing in the line of duty."

President Joe Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden "stand ready to provide any assistance needed" as the Department of Defense and National Guard continue their investigation.

"Our prayers are with their families, units, and the entire Mississippi National Guard at this incredibly difficult time," he said in a statement on Saturday. "These two Guardsmen embodied the very best of our nation -- bound by honor, and committed to service. We will continue to keep our solemn promise to care for their families, just as they were faithful to our nation."

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