Three National Guard soldiers killed in helicopter crash identified
(CNN) -- Three soldiers killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash Thursday have been identified by the Minnesota National Guard.
The soldiers, who had been assigned to a unit in St. Cloud, Minnesota, have been identified as: Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., 28; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, 30; and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, 28.
All three soldiers had returned from a nine-month deployment in the Middle East in May, a release from the Minnesota National Guard said.
A resident of Winsted, Minnesota, Rogers enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in 2009 as a field artillery specialist. Nord, a resident of Perham, Minnesota, leaves behind his wife, Kaley, who is expecting the couple's second child, and a 2-year-old daughter named Lydia. Plantenberg lived in Avon, Minnesota, and was a member of the Minnesota National Guard biathlon team, according to the Guard.
The helicopter crashed 16 miles southwest of St. Cloud, Gov. Tim Walz said at a news conference Thursday.
"They paid the ultimate price in service to Minnesota and to the United States of America," said Walz, himself a National Guard veteran.
"The coming days will be dark and difficult. The state of Minnesota stands ready to assist the families of our fallen heroes."
The crew was conducting a maintenance test flight just after 2 p.m. when they lost contact with air traffic controllers, according to CNN affiliate WCCO.
A mayday call was put out and, about 90 minutes after it went missing, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was found tangled in trees on a farm, WCCO reported.
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