The UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter crashed in a farmer's field in rural Mendon, south of Rochester, around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. There were no survivors.
The aircraft and crew was assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion. The unit trains to perform aeromedical evacuation, and the crew had been conducting night vision goggle proficiency training in the local training area.
The victims were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, of Warwick.
Prial's father, Greg Prial, spoke to Eyewitness News, his pride and pain on display.
"I couldn't be more proud of him," he said. "He made you smile. If you knew him for a day, you knew him for 10 years."
Residents report hearing the engine sputtering and say it appears the crew prevented the doomed chopper from crashing into houses by steering it toward an open field.
A procession honored the men as their remains were transported Thursday. And in Warwick, there's another tribute: Nearly 200 flags lining the streets leading to the Prial family home, honoring the former high school track state champion who would go on to West Point and Afghanistan.
Amazing tribute in Warwick for fallen National Guardsman Daniel Prial. Streets leading to family’s home lined with nearly 200 flags. pic.twitter.com/eapTGFLVSE— Marcus Solis (@MarcusSolis7) January 22, 2021
"It's unbelievable," neighbor Karen Devora said. "He finished his tour, and he survives that, and then he comes home to this."
In September, Prial started what he described as a dream job in Rochester, one that meant flying five days a week. With that came added risk, with which his father -- a former Marine Corps helicopter crew chief himself -- is all too familiar with.
"When you train for conflict, you've got to train like it's there," he said. "You've got to fly at night. You've got to fly in weather. There's always that chance. He knew it."
Greg Prial is a retired FDNY firefighter who was on duty on September 11, a watershed moment for his son, who was in the sixth grade.
"I was working that day, they didn't hear form me," he said. "I think that's what set him on his path to service and doing something bigger than himself."
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus also issued a statement on Prial's passing.
"Today, the National Guard identified those members who were tragically killed in Wednesday's crash," he said. "The release of Chief Warrant Officer Prial's name brings this tragedy home to Orange County. Members of the military put their lives on the line every day and this accident underscores the dangers and risks that they face. I'm saddened by Daniel's death and my thoughts and prayers are with his family; we are all appreciative of his and their sacrifice."
The Army press release described the Guardsmen as follows:
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda was a 35-year veteran of the Army and the New York Army National Guard. He served in the Active Army from 1985 to 1987. He joined the National Guard 1987.
In 1992, he became a pilot and began flying UH-1 helicopters from the Army Aviation Support Facility in Rochester. He was 54 years old.
Skoda was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and was deployed there in 2013 and 2019.
He was an experienced helicopter pilot who served as a UH-60 senior instructor pilot and an instrument flight instructor and a UH-60 maintenance test pilot. He had almost 5,000 flying hours.
He mentored Soldiers of all ranks throughout his career.
Skoda was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk A and L models, the UH-1 "Huey", the OH-58 Kiowa, the AH-1 Cobra, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.
He worked as a full-time National Guard technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport, as well as serving as a member of C Company of the 171st General Support Aviation Battalion.
A National Guard technician is a federal employee who must also serve in the National Guard as a condition of employment. Skoda had been a technician since 1999.
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Skoda's awards included the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon, the Department of State Superior Honor Award, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation.
He was a friend and mentor to all the Soldiers in his unit, supporting the training and career progressions of hundreds of aircrews throughout his career, according to Soldiers at the flight facility.
He was single and was a resident of Rochester.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch was a 20-year veteran of the New York Army National Guard. He initially served as an infantryman in A Company of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry.
He became a helicopter pilot in 2006, flying from the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport. He was 39 years old.
Koch was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012- 2013 and served in Iraq in 2008-2009. He served as part of Operation Noble Eagle, the National Guard security mission in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in 2004.
His hard work and drive lead him to becoming the Senior Instructor Pilot for the unit. His motivation and infectious personality made him a great Soldier, Leader and Father, according to unit members.
He was an experienced helicopter pilot who served as a senior instructor pilot and instrument flight instructor. In civilian life he worked as a civilian pilot for the New York State Police.
Koch was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk A and L models, as well as the CH-47 Chinook. He had 2,350 flying hours.
His awards include the Air Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Army Forces Service Medal, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Army Reserve Overseas Training ribbon, the Army Parachutist Badge, the Senior Army Aviator Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
He held a Bachelor's degree in mathematics from SUNY Brockport.
He was a resident of Honeoye Falls and is married to Teressa DaGama.
Chief Warrant Officer Two Daniel Prial
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial had served in the Army since 2012 after earning a commission at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
He served as a medical evacuation platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division's 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
He deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015 with the 82nd Airborne Division and served as an instructor pilot for students at the Fort Rucker, Alabama, where the Army trains helicopter pilots.
Prial was 30 years old.
He attained the rank of captain before accepting an appointment as a warrant officer in the New York Army National Guard so he could continue to fly. He was working as a federal technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport.
A National Guard technician is a federal employee who must also serve in the National Guard as a condition of employment.
He was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and had 670 flying hours.
His awards include the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal and the Army Aviator Badge.
Prial was extremely humble and family centric. He had an ability to fit in quickly and make an immediate impact on new groups, according to Soldiers in his unit.
He was single and lived in Rochester.
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