What to Know
- Four New York Air National Guard members were among the seven service members killed in a U.S. chopper crash in Iraq
- The four men were stationed at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach
- The crash in western Iraq did not appear to be the result of enemy activity and is under investigation
Two more New York Air National Guard members were among the seven armed service members killed when their U.S. helicopter crashed in Iraq this week, the Department of Defense said Saturday, bringing the number of tri-state victims to four.
Capt. Andreas O'Keeffe and Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs were killed in the crash, the Pentagon said, along with Capt. Christopher Zanetis and Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, whose deaths were confirmed Friday.
Three of the men were from Long Island and one was from Queens: O'Keeffe, 37, was from Center Moriches; Briggs, 30, was from Port Jefferson Station; Zanetis, 37, was from Long Island City; and Raguso, 39, was from Commack.
All four men were assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing's 101st Rescue Squadron, stationed at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, about 80 miles east of New York City, the Pentagon said.
"It is with great sadness that I report the loss of four of our wing members," said Col. Michael Bank, the commander of the 106th Rescue Wing, in a press release Saturday evening.
The men were part of a seven-member team who died when the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter they were flying crashed near the city of Al-Qa'im in western Iraq on Thursday afternoon, according to the Pentagon.
"This is where we live and serve, and our hearts are broken," Capt. Michael O'Hagan, a spokesman for the 106th Air Rescue Wing, said at a press conference in Suffolk County on Saturday night.
Airmen from the 106th Rescue Wing have deployed regularly to Afghanistan and Iraq and other areas in support of American and coalition combat missions since Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon said, adding that the deaths of the four men brings the total number of New York National Guard members who have died in a combat zone since Sept. 11 to 39.
O'Keeffe was an HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot who had deployed to Iraq three times, and to Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Texas during Hurricane Harvey, the Pentagon said.
Briggs, an HH-60G special missions aviation flight engineer, had previously deployed to Afghanistan with the 106th Maintenance Group, and to Texas and the Caribbean for hurricanes Harvey and Irma as a member of the 101st, according to the Pentagon. His wife told News 4 on Saturday night that she will remember him as a loving husband and her hero.
On Friday, the FDNY identified Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal Zanetis as the 1,148th and 1,149th members of the FDNY to die in the line of duty.
Raguso was a 13-year veteran of the FDNY who received six citations for bravery and life-saving actions as an individual firefighter or as part of a unit. He also served as a lieutenant in the volunteer fire department in Commack, where he lived with his wife and two daughters, ages 5 and 6. He was an HH-60G special missions aviation flight engineer who had previously deployed once to Iraq, twice to Afghanistan, once to the Horn of Africa, and to Texas and the Caribbean for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Zanetis had been with the FDNY since 2004 and had been promoted to fire marshal in 2013. He was recognized for his bravery as part of the investigative unit in 2014. The FDNY said he is survived by his parents, who live in Indiana. He was an HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot who had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He had recently joined the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City as an associate, according to the Pentagon.
“Lt. Raguso and Fire Marshal Zanetis bravely wore two uniforms in their extraordinary lives of service – as New York City Firefighters and as members of the United States Armed Forces,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a press release Friday.
The other three men killed in Thursday's crash were 29-year-old Captain Mark Weber from Colorado Springs; 36-year-old Master Sergeant William Posch from Indialantic, Florida; and 31-year-old Staff Sergeant Carl Enis from Tallahassee, Florida.
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The crash in western Iraq did not appear to be the result of enemy activity and is under investigation, the Pentagon said Friday.
"This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement.
The helicopter was used by the Air Force for combat search and rescue, and was in transit from one location to another Thursday when it went down in Anbar Province.
The Pentagon said an accompanying U.S. helicopter immediately reported the crash and a quick-reaction force comprised of Iraqi security forces and Coalition members secured the scene.