9 soldiers dead after two Army Black Hawk helicopters crash during training in Kentucky

Nine soldiers were killed after two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters crashed Wednesday night during a training mission in southwestern Kentucky, authorities said.

The HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Army's 101st Airborne Division crashed around 10 p.m. Wednesday in Trigg County, Kentucky, to the west of the Army base Fort Campbell, the division said in a Thursday statement.

Fort Campbell spokesperson Nondice Thurman confirmed nine soldiers died in the crash.

The 101st Airborne Division, nicknamed the "Screaming Eagles," is the only air assault division of the U.S. Army.

VISUAL EXPLAINER: US Army Black Hawk helicopters crash in Kentucky leaving nine dead

All nine service members aboard the helicopters were killed during a "multi-ship" exercise using night vision goggles, Brig. Gen. John Lubas, the 101st Airborne deputy commander, said at a news conference Thursday. Five people were in one helicopter and four were in the other, he said.

On Friday, authorities identified the service members killed as Warrant Officer 1 Jeffery Barnes, 33, of Milton, Florida; Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23, of Austin, Texas; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza, 36, of Jackson, Missouri; Sgt. Isaacjohn Gayo, 27, of Los Angeles, California; Staff Sgt. Joshua C. Gore, 25, of Morehead City, North Carolina; Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy, 32, of Cape Coral, Florida; Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, 30, of Mountain Brook, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32, of Rolla, Missouri; and Sgt. David Solinas Jr., 23, of Oradell, New Jersey.

"This is a time of great sadness for the 101st Airborne Division," said Maj. Gen. JP McGee, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell. "The loss of these soldiers will reverberate through our formations for years to come."

Lubas said it was unclear what caused the crash. The Army sent an aviation safety team from Fort Rucker, Alabama, to investigate, according to statement from the 101st Airborne Division.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a Twitter statement that Kentucky State Police, the state's division of emergency management and local officials responded to the crash. Beshear said he would go to Fort Campbell to "support our troops and their families after last night’s tragic incident."

The crash occurred in a "field, some wooded area," and there were no reports of additional injuries or damage to homes, Kentucky State Police Trooper Sarah Burgess said at a news conference.

Gov. Beshear calls crash 'tragic,' White House responds

Beshear called the crash "tragic" and said Thursday that the service members "will be mourned and missed by their families, by their communities." He asked the people of Kentucky to "wrap our arms around these families."

"We're going to be there with them, not just for the days but for the weeks, the months and the years to come," he said.

Members of the Kentucky Senate stood for a moment of silence Thursday morning.

“They’re there to protect us,” Kentucky state Rep. Walker Thomas said. “And we’re constantly seeing these helicopters flying over our communities.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the service members "represent the best — the best of our nation and play a critical role in our security."

"Our hearts and our prayers go out to their families during this very difficult time, as well as those who served alongside them at Fort Campbell," she said.

Previous helicopter crashes

Last month, two Tennessee National Guard pilots were killed when their Blackhawk helicopter crashed along an Alabama highway during a training exercise. The Kentucky accident also comes days after a police helicopter crashed Sunday in a sugar cane field in Louisiana, killing two police officers.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kentucky helicopter crash: Black Hawks crash near Fort Campbell base