Four Airmen Die in Helicopter Crash

The Defense Department on Thursday evening announced the deaths of four airmen in a HH-60G rescue helicopter crash near FOB Jackson in southeastern Afghanistan’s restive Helmand province. Some news organizations are reporting that the helicopter was brought down by hostile fire, but the Air Force said in a subsequent release the crash’s cause is under investigation. Killed in the June 9 crash were: 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, 25, of Grass Lake, Mich., assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nev.; TSgt. Michael P. Flores, 31, of San Antonio, 48th RQS, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.; SSgt. David C. Smith, 26, of Eight Mile, Ala., 66th RQS, Nellis; and SrA. Benjamin D. White, 24, of Erwin, Tenn., 48th RQS, Davis-Monthan. “Our hearts go out to the families of these brave Americans, and we express our deepest condolences to them,” said Col. Gary Henderson, commander of the 23rd Wing at Moody AFB, Ga., parent unit of the rescue airmen. Three additional airmen assigned to the 66th RQS were injured in the crash. Moody spokeswoman SSgt. Robin Stanchek told the Daily Report that Flores was posthumously promoted to technical sergeant. He had a line number for promotion in place. (See Washington Post report and Tucson’s KOLD TV news station 13 report).