A Cheney High School graduate is presumed dead following a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
Clint Prather, 32, was a Chinook helicopter pilot and may have been flying the craft when it went down Wednesday, killing 18, said Prather’s stepfather, David Hackwith.
Prather, a chief warrant officer, had served a year in Iraq and went to Afghanistan in February. Prather joined the Army immediately after graduating from high school in 1992 and planned to stay in the military for his entire career.
“He was 100 percent behind what he was doing,” Hackwith said. “He would do it in a minute to ensure his kids would be free.”
Wednesday’s crash was the deadliest for Americans in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The CH-47 Chinook went down during a sandstorm near Ghazni, 80 miles south of the capital, Kabul. Thirteen U.S. service members and three civilian contractors were previously confirmed dead. Prather and another person were listed as missing.
Two other sets of remains were found on Friday, said Lt. Cindy Moore, a U.S. spokesman. It was uncertain Friday night if Prather was one of the people found.
Prather had served as a medic previous to being trained as a helicopter pilot in 2001.
” ‘I guess I’ll get to do what I was trained for,’ ” Hackwith remembered his stepson saying when they watched the 9/11 terrorist attacks on television.
Prather was stationed in Germany, where his wife, Irene, and two children live.
“He was a devoted father, husband and soldier and thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing,” said Doug Jacobs, family spokesman.
The remains found Friday were flown to Bagram, the American base north of Kabul. From there, they will be flown to the U.S. air base in Dover, Del., for identification, Moore said.
Moore said investigators from the U.S. Army’s Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., were due to arrive in Afghanistan today. The transport helicopter crashed as it returned to Bagram from a supply and transport mission in the insurgency-plagued south. The charred wreckage was found in an area of flat desert near a cluster of brick kilns. Officials reported no sign of enemy fire and suggested bad visibility and strong winds may have caused a fatal pilot error or technical problem.
A second Chinook made it safely back.
According to U.S. government statistics, 137 American soldiers have now died in and around Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led war on terrorism, began after the attacks in America. Accidents have proved almost as deadly as attacks from Taliban-led insurgents, including a string of helicopter crashes and explosions caused by mines and munitions left over from the country’s long wars.
The previous worst incident in Afghanistan was an accidental explosion at an arms dump in Ghazni province in January 2004 that killed eight American soldiers. About 17,000 U.S. soldiers remain in Afghanistan, battling a stubborn Taliban-led insurgency and training a new Afghan army.