A Spokane man was among the Marines killed in an aviation training accident in Arizona on Wednesday. Lance Cpl. Nickoulas H. Elliott, 21, was killed along with six other Marines when two helicopters collided.
It was the deadliest such accident in years.
Besides Elliott, the dead were listed Friday as Maj. Thomas A. Budrejko, 37, of Montville, Conn.; Capt. Michael M. Quin, 28, of Purcellville, Va.; Capt. Benjamin N. Cerniglia, 31, of Montgomery, Ala.; Sgt. Justin A. Everett, 33, of Clovis, Calif.; Lance Cpl. Corey A. Little, 25, of Marietta, Ga; and Capt. Nathan W. Anderson, 32, of Amarillo, Texas.
Anderson was from the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona and the others were from Camp Pendleton, the West Coast’s largest base.
Elliott enlisted in the Marine Corps May 4, 2009 and served as a helicopter crew chief aboard UH-1Y Hueys. His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
It could take weeks to determine what caused two helicopters, an AH-1W Cobra and a UH-1 Huey, to crash in midair during a routine exercise Wednesday night, killing all aboard the aircraft. Skies were clear and the weather was mild. The accident occurred near the Chocolate Mountains along the California-Arizona border — a sprawling desert range favored by the U.S. military because its craggy mountains and hot, dusty conditions are similar to Afghanistan’s harsh environment.
All the Marines were part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. With 17,500 Marines and sailors, including personnel stationed at Camp Pendleton and Yuma, the unit conducts hundreds of aviation training exercises a year so troops can get as much experience as possible before they go to war.
Two of the Marines who died were aboard the AH-1W Cobra and the rest were in the UH-1 Huey utility helicopter. They were flying in a remote section of the 1.2-million-acre Yuma Training Range Complex as part of a two-week standard training called “Scorpion Fire” that involved a squadron of about 450 troops from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.