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Colville soldier dies in helicopter crash in Iraq

Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin H. Todd, 29, was one of four soldiers who died on Jan. 26 when two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters crashed in Kirkuk. (The Spokesman-Review)
Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin H. Todd, 29, was one of four soldiers who died on Jan. 26 when two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters crashed in Kirkuk. (The Spokesman-Review)

A Colville man was one of four soldiers killed when two helicopters crashed Monday in northern Iraq.

Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin H. Todd, 29, was flying one of two Kiowa Warrior helicopters that crashed in Iraq’s Tamim province, about 20 miles west of Kirkuk.

Services are pending for Todd, who has a wife and child, the Defense Department said in the statement announcing the names of the four crash victims.

Todd attended Colville High School from 1996 to 1998, Principal Kevin Knight said. He enlisted in the Army in 2000 and was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., in 2007 as a Kiowa helicopter pilot, the Defense Department statement said. Todd was deployed to Iraq last October.

Todd was a pilot on one of two armed reconnaissance helicopters that crashed early Monday morning. U.S. military officials in Iraq said the crash did not “appear to be by enemy action” but have not said yet whether the helicopters collided.

A Sunni insurgent group claimed that it shot down the helicopters, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. The group, the Army of the Men of al-Nakshabandia Order, made the claim on a Web site but said they had shot down two Blackhawk helicopters with rockets and killed more than 20.

The Kiowa is a smaller helicopter, and while the Army said the crashes remain under investigation, they reiterated that enemy fire did not appear to be involved.

Investigations into helicopter crashes typically take weeks or months, not days, a spokeswoman for Fort Drum, where all four soldiers were based, said Thursday.

Also killed in the crashes were Chief Warrant Officer Joshua M. Tillery, 31, of Beaverton, Ore.; Chief Warrant Officer Philip E. Windorski, Jr., 35, of Bovey, Minn.; and Chief Warrant Officer Matthew G. Kelley, 30, of Cameron, Mo.

All four have been awarded the Bronze Star, spokeswoman Julie Cupernall added.

All were pilots assigned to the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum. The Kiowa is a two-pilot aircraft, used primarily for gathering information from the air for ground troops, but is also used to carry small numbers of soldiers, emergency evacuations of wounded and delivering cargo.



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