Investigation Underway After Helicopter Crash Near Border

Investigation Underway After Helicopter Crash Near Border

( – Keeping the Southern US border secure requires agents routinely carry out both ground and aerial operations. This action gives border control a birds-eye view of activity they otherwise might not see on the ground. A routine patrol went horribly wrong in early March, killing a border agent and two National Guardsmen and injuring one other. A criminal investigation into the incident is reportedly underway.

The incident occurred on Friday, March 8, when a UH-72 Lakota helicopter crashed near Rio Grande City in Texas. Three New York-based National Guardsmen flew onboard: 28-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Casey Frankoski, 30-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Grassia, and one unnamed officer. Both Frankoski and Grassia died in the crash. The accident also killed Chris Luna, a 49-year-old Border Patrol agent. New York had deployed 21 guardsmen to Texas to help with the border crisis.

More than a month later, no information has been released about what caused the crash. However, the patrol was not part of Governor Greg Abbott’s (R-TX) Operation Lone Star. Instead, the group was participating in a routine “monitoring and detecting capabilities along that sector of the border,” per Joint Task Force North spokesman Maj. Ryan Wierzbicki.

The crew on the helicopter was from New York, but the aircraft belonged to the Army National Guard of Washington, DC. It wasn’t one of the two craft assigned to the New York Army National Guard. The accident prompted a safety investigation, which the US Army Combat Readiness Center is carrying out. It handles all Army aviation accidents, sending subject-matter experts and investigators to the crash sites. Spokesperson Jimmie E. Cummings, Jr. said the department wasn’t involved in any local probes.

According to Major Carlos Delgado of the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, authorities are trying to determine whether criminal activity might somehow have contributed to the accident. He said the probe began “immediately after a call was placed to [its] office requesting emergency medical services and [their] presence.”

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