RAINIER, Wash. (AP) — The four Army aviators killed when two helicopters crashed during training at a Washington state base were identified Wednesday as investigators look into the cause of the collision.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord released the names of those killed: They are Capt. Anne M. Montgomery, a native of North Dakota; Chief Warrant Officer Frank A. Buoniconti, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Chief Warrant Officer Joseph S. Satterfield, a native of Alaska; and Chief Warrant Officer Lucas Daniel Sigfrid, a native of Alabama.
An investigation into the cause of the accident by a team from Fort Rucker, AL, began Wednesday. Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield says the investigation could take as long as a year.
The two-seat reconnaissance choppers crashed after 8 p.m. Monday in the southwest training area of the sprawling base, killing all four on board. The aircraft involved were OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, often called scout helicopters (similar to the one pictured). The single-engine, four-bladed aircraft are used for armed reconnaissance.
Montgomery, 25, had served on active duty since August 2008 and arrived at the Washington base a year ago. She was a 2008 graduate of the United States Military Academy and had not been deployed overseas.
Buoniconti, 36, had served on active duty since July 1994, and arrived at the base in early November. He previously served at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the National Training Center, in Fort Irwin, Calif. He was deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. His awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Satterfield, 32, had been on active duty since September 1997 and had been at the Washington base since December 2009. He has had assignments in Korea and at Fort Campbell, Ky., and deployed once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
Sigfrid, 32, had been on active duty since May 2008 and at the Washington base since January of this year. He had not deployed overseas.
Army officials said the airmen were on a routine night training flight and said the weather was clear after the helicopters went down a couple miles from the community of Rainier, which is south of Tacoma.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of the largest bases in the country, with about 100,000 military and civilian personnel. In December 2006, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Fort Lewis crashed southeast of Seattle during a night training mission, killing all three aboard.
Although Sigfrid’s personnel records list Alabama as his home state, he went to high school and college in Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Wednesday. He graduated from Champlin Park High School, in a suburb of Minneapolis, and attended St. Cloud State University for pilot training before joining the Army, said his cousin Mark Duclos.
Sigfrid’s wife and Duclos’ wife are both pregnant, Duclos told the newspaper.
“We were just talking last week … about if we’re going to have boys and they would grow up like us. We were just hellions,” Duclos said.
Sigfrid’s former high school wrestling coach, Bill Maresh, who did not have firsthand knowledge that Sigfrid was killed, said he wrestled all four years of high school and wasn’t a champion but was a good guy who was dedicated to the sport and his team.
While other wrestlers might quit after two years if they’re not successful, Maresh said Sigfrid stuck with the program.
“He was just one of those guys who kept coming, and he fought as hard as he could all the time,” Maresh told The Associated Press.
Silvia Buoniconti of Colorado Springs, Colo., told The Colorado Springs Gazette that her son, Buoniconti, was among those killed in the accident.
“He was a great guy,” she told the newspaper Tuesday. “I’m so in shock and so is my husband.”
Her son followed his father into the military, serving three overseas tours. He joined up because “he felt it was the right thing to do,” she said.
That service included preparing dinner for fellow soldiers, his mother said.
“He loved to cook, he loved to bake,” she said.
– Associated Press writers Donna Blankinship in Seattle and Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis contributed to this story.